Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Week 4 Quick Reads

Our look at which quarterbacks were "streakiest" in Week 4 includes more discussion of Raiders quarterbacks than we ever anticipated.

10 Dec 2007

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

compiled by Doug Farrar

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2008. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

New York Giants 16 at Philadelphia Eagles 13

Mike Tanier: The Eagles ran a reverse wideout option where Donovan McNabb had to block for Greg Lewis, who threw a deep pass to L.J. Smith. Whoever came up with that play should be slapped. "Let's see, we'll have McNabb risk his health by blocking, we'll have Greg Lewis making decisions with the ball in his hands, and we'll have L.J. trying to make a catch in traffic. That's freakin' brilliant. Can we bring Ryan Moats back and have him do some algebra during the play, too?"

Ben Riley: Wow. I just switched over to this game to see Plaxico Burress make a nice catch and then run for about ten yards holding the football like a baton in one hand. Does he always do that? And didn't Tom Coughlin teach Tiki the wondrous benefits of the four-point hold?

Ned Macey: Not exactly a Donovan McNabb redemption game. I have no idea how the Eagles look so good at some points and so bad at others. They marched the ball early and then just drifted for two quarters. At the end, they ran out of time despite two solid drives. Interesting play call when the Eagles were driving late. They ran it on second-and-long and third-and-long, forcing a fourth-and-6. Jason Avant gets hit early by Pierce, but no ref would ever make a call there on a desperation fourth-down play. (I kid -- the call should have been made last week against Baltimore, but also on Pierce.)

The Eagles, I believe, have outscored their opponents and are sitting at 5-8.

Mike Tanier: I really don't know what to say. Being an Eagles fan hasn't been fun lately. I wait for someone to make a play. Brian Westbrook makes one. I wait for somebody else, on offense or defense. Trent Cole comes through once in a while. Kevin Curtis or Lito Sheppard, maybe. When anyone else does something positive, it comes as a mortal shock. Brown made a great catch ... oh my God! Greg Lewis had a big game: Shocking! I have no faith that Takeo Spikes will make a big stop on defense or that a kick returner will break one or that a backup tight end will catch five passes for 45 yards and take pressure off everyone else.

I've watched the roster talent slowly slip since the Super Bowl year, all the while straining my eyes to see if Omar Gaither could be as good as the young Trotter or if Brian Dawkins could turn back the clock. Now I miss Cory Simon and Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and nickel backs like Al Harris and Rod Hood. I miss young Dawkins and young McNabb, young Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I don't want to rebuild, but I don't want to watch this team, this system, keep slipping.

St. Louis Rams 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 19

Ben Riley: Anyone know why Pat Summerall is calling the this game? His voice alone is almost making this game watchable. Almost.

Bill Barnwell: It's the FOX G-Team!

Miami Dolphins 17 at Buffalo Bills 38

Mike Tanier: Not watching this game, but I give the Dolphins a lot of credit for using guys like Beck, Gado, and Ginn. If they are going to stink, it's the least they can do to use lots of guys with short, easy-to-spell names so we don't have to waste our time with a lot of excess typing.

Ryan Wilson: Kudos to the Dolphins for using Lemon too. He just replaced Beck.

Ben Riley: You can call him "Cleo" if you want to save a letter.

Surprisingly, this game will continue to dominate my morning Audibles. Rian Lindell just nailed a 51-yard field goal in heavy rain to set a new Bills record for consecutive field goals (18). Somewhere, Vince Gallo is writing a sequel.

Oakland Raiders 7 at Green Bay Packers 38

Ben Riley: I'd be curious to chat with the game charters who do Green Bay games to see if Donald Driver always jumps a step backwards before he starts to run forward, or only when I'm watching him. It's a surprisingly effective move that tends to freeze the corner and allows Driver to pick up some nice yards after the catch.

I was about to start gushing over Ryan Grant until I remembered the leaking sieve that is the Raiders' run defense. Honestly, I think I would set the over/under on Ben Riley's rushing yards against Oakland's defense at 65.

("Bet the under!" -- Tanier.)

Doug Farrar: As favorable as you'd think the Ryan Grant-versus-the Oakland defensive line matchup would be for the Packers, it's made even more so by the Raiders' defensive staff, who must be game-planning based on two-month-old tape. They're running a lot of nickel coverage, focusing on bringing pressure with four, and leaving huge holes for Grant to run through. They do know that Brett Favre was injured against the Cowboys, right? Maybe you stop the run and then deal with whatever Favre might try to throw at you? I'm kind of astonished by this, considering that teams have run almost 200 more times on the Raiders than they've passed. In the first half, Green Bay ran 18 times and threw 14 times. Not unpredictable.

The Al Harris first-half interception was all about effort. Josh McCown had overthrown Jerry Porter by about ten yards, but Harris kept hustling on the route while Porter went into his, "Oh, look -- another crappy throw from a Raiders quarterback" stride. On the other hand, Porter's touchdown at the end of the first half was an across-the-body throw by McCown that was more in Harris' breadbasket, and Harris was all over Porter, but Atari Bigby knocked Harris off the play as Porter took the ball away. I have a feeling that when all is said and done, Bigby could join DeShaun Foster as an all-time FO bete noire.

Bill Barnwell: I've said it before, but watching Favre move around in the pocket is really a thing of beauty -- there's never a misstep. He always knows exactly where to step to and where his protection is.

You know it's cold when Ed Hochuli is wearing a long-sleeved shirt.

I like Josh McCown, but he hasn't looked great. His completions are either to wide-open receivers in zones or, in the case of his touchdown pass, a lob that should have been intercepted but for a miraculous Jerry Porter leap.

Oakland is "...beginning to believe in the system." What part of the system is that? The one that allows seemingly eight yards a carry?

Doug Farrar: There seems to be more of a concerted effort in the second half for Oakland to follow Grant with its linebackers. They'll blitz once in a while, but all Favre has to do is the quick step-up-and- throw, so that's generally no good. Another of the seemingly endless questions about this formerly great Raiders defense (they really were quite good last year, right? That wasn't a mirage?) is when the tackling in the secondary became so atrocious. There seems to be a lack of overall coordination back there, as if you'd be more likely to suffer a hit by an Oakland defensive back if you were another Oakland defensive back.

Of course, you probably don't want Stanford Routt solo on Greg Jennings on a Brett Favre bomb, either. I think that was a clear example of the "Mike Rumph Variable." Tight end Donald Lee put this game far, far away with a long touchdown run after catch, during which he stiff-armed Stuart Schweigert into next month. Favre reacted by giving center Junius Coston a big ol' butt slap. A spontaneous and funny gesture -- unfortunately, it triggered a barrage of "Brett Favre is just having fun out there" stuff from the booth. Lord, save us. What Favre is doing is looking very good after that outing against Dallas, and this isn't a team I'd want to face in the playoffs.

Sean McCormick: That was about as embarrassing a tackle attempt by Schweigert as you'll see in this league. He had the angle to take Lee down around the five-yard line, but he let himself get caught up in trash and never even attempted to get his helmet on Lee until they were over the goal line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 at Houston Texans 28

Russell Levine: Well, the Bucs had a three-game lead with four to play, stole a game on the road last week, and were starting the third-string (at least at the start of the season) quarterback again. So I suppose a letdown is not that unexpected. Still this game reveals how large the gap is between the elite teams in the NFC (Dallas, Green Bay) and a half-decent club like Tampa that has benefited greatly from a soft schedule.

Tampa Bay started two possessions in Houston territory and went three-and-out both times. Late in the third quarter and trailing by 7, they forced a turnover and appeared poised to perhaps tie the game, on third down the center snapped the ball before McCown was ready, turnover, game-icing touchdown.

I was really impressed with Sage Rosenfels. Other than holding the ball too long on that turnover, and forcing a couple throws into coverage, he was very poised, accurate, and kept picking up third downs by stepping up and hitting the open guy. On the other side of the ball, you couldn't miss Mario Williams, who would like the world to know that maybe the Texans knew what they were doing last April. He was a force coming off the edge and had two drive-killing sacks and a number of key stops in the run game.

For Tampa, the edge rushers were also impressive. Greg White is a nobody that has been cut eight times and was last seen in the Arena league. Jovan Haye has a similarly indistinct background. Yet nobody in Tampa has missed Simeon Rice this year despite much gnashing of teeth when he was cut. The play of those two has allowed Gaines Adams to be brought along slowly. He didn't start until week 9, and looked very lost early in the season. Yet he's coming on, made some nice run stops and has been getting into the backfield on pass plays as well.

If this game costs Tampa Bay the third seed, and they end up at Dallas instead of at Green Bay in the second round (assuming they can beat the wild card team -- a big assumption for a team with one win over an opponent with a winning record), they will very much regret their flat performance.

Dallas Cowboys 28 at Detroit Lions 27

Ben Riley: OK, Detroit has first-and-goal from inside the one-yard line. T.J. Duckett's been plowing through the Cowboys' defensive line. Time to slay the demon, Mike. You can do it.

Michael David Smith: In a way, the Lions' offense is better without Roy Williams because the ball can just go to whoever's got the best matchup. Too often they try to force things to Williams when he isn't open.

Aaron Schatz: I missed part of this game driving over to Ian Dembsky's house but from what I can tell, Detroit is playing much more man coverage than usua. That still doesn't explain how this subpar defense managed to keep Terrell Owens without any catches for the entire first half. In the final two minutes, Detroit went to the zone, and Romo just calmly marched the Cowboys down the field for a touchdown. On the last play, you had a zone blitz where Dewayne White had to backpedal and cover Marion Barber coming out of the backfield. Yes, that's the matchup the Lions want in the red zone, sure.

Ian wants to know when it became legal for CBS to show FOX highlights during halftime and vice versa. We always remember that CBS could only show AFC footage and FOX could only show NFC footage.

Ben Riley: For the fourth time today, FOX cuts to commercial with a screen shot of a drunken female Detroit Lions fan dressed in a naughty Santa suit, bobbing up and down with a beer in her hand. Quoth Joe Buck: "Merry Christmas."

Doug Farrar: As long as she doesn't fake-moon the crowd, or elongate her home run trot, Buck's OK.

Bill Barnwell: Hopefully it's F*** DA EAGLES girl, and she's now on tour.

Ben Riley: I know a lot of Audibles ink has been spilled on the subject of the stupid spike penalty, but Calvin Johnson just got called for it while lying on the ground, after he smacked his arms together in frustration. Does anyone know if there's any sort of discretion built into the penalty, or whether it's automatic if the ref sees it?

Doug Farrar: Well, it's a judgment call, I guess. He smacked his arms together? Did he throw the ball away or anything?

Ben Riley: Yeah, the ball hit the ground. But it wasn't a "spike" in the conventional sense of the word. If it truly is a judgment call, the flag shouldn't have been thrown. And just to rub some salt into MDS's paper cut, Jason Hanson missed the ensuing field goal attempt. Ouch.

Aaron Schatz: Tony Romo got called for the stupid spike after he spiked in frustration when Dallas had a delay of game. I hate this penalty. Hate it, hate it, hate it. HATE IT. WHO CARES? Earlier in the game, Marion Barber ran out of bounds and spiked the ball because he was excited about getting a first down. That wasn't called. What are the rules on this stupid thing?

Sean McCormick: You know, I went to Arizona State, and I don't remember Shaun McDonald being open 100 percent of the time. I assumed he was having a good year in part because teams were so focused on Williams and Johnson, but with Williams out it hasn't affected him at all.

Sean McCormick: Dallas with some Patriots-style good fortune. On third-and-6, Romo tries to scramble and gets the ball knocked out of his hands from behind. The ball squirts forward, hits a Detroit defender, and he proceeds to kick it full speed back towards a Cowboy. A lineman falls on it, Dallas converts on fourth down and their last-gasp drive continues.

Aaron Schatz: Has Sean McHugh been this good all year? He was a huge part of why the Lions could run the ball, great blocking to clear holes for Kevin Jones up the middle. He was also taking on blitzers -- and even made some big plays coming out of the backfield to catch the ball. (The one thing I don't understand: motioning McHugh out wide. That wasn't fooling anyone.) I would love to see more of this guy. If Mike Martz can be convinced to run the ball, maybe he can be convinced to use a fullback more often if he has a good one.

The whole Dallas comeback felt exactly like New England last week against Baltimore. Remember last week when Jaws kept saying in the fourth quarter, "you can feel Baltimore losing this, you can feel Baltimore losing this?" Ian and I were saying the same thing about Dallas and Detroit. Deep down, it just seemed like the Cowboys would come back. Maybe Tony Romo and Tom Brady share DNA or something.

Pat Laverty: Yeah, they've probably dated some of the same starlets.

Oh wait, that's probably not what you meant by "share DNA," was it?

(Editor's note: There was some really terrible math in the original version of this next comment. It has been corrected.)

Vince Verhei: I nominate the Detroit coaching staff for Keep Choppin' Wood this week. Dallas trails 20-14 early in the third quarter. They have second-and-8 at their own 5. Terrell Owens catches a pass for four yards, but is called for offensive pass interference. Detroit, however, declines the penalty, leaving Dallas with third-and-4.

Now, the penalty for offensive pass interference is 10 yards from the original line of scrimmage, right? In this, case, it would be half the distance to the goal, so Dallas would have the ball at their own 3, with 10 yards to go for a first. So the Detroit coaches chose third-and-4 rather than second-and-10. I can see how you'd rather have to stop Dallas on one play instead of stopping them twice, but this is still stupid. Worse yet, doesn't OPI also involve a loss of down? So by declining the penalty, didn't the Lions choose third-and-4 at the 9 instead of third-and-10 at the 3?

San Diego Chargers 23 at Tennessee Titans 17

Aaron Schatz: I have a bit of advice for San Diego. Don't call the "fake screen to one side, spin around, actual screen on other side" play when Billy Volek is in the game. First of all, the backup doesn't get enough reps in practice to get the timing on that play down correctly. Second, he is BILLY VOLEK.

Shaun Phillips completely horse-collared Chris Brown when Brown scored a touchdown to put Tennessee up 10-3 on San Diego. Two hands, inside the pads, from behind. No call. Either call the damn penalty or take it off the books. What the hell? This is not like bitching about holding; we're talking about avoiding injuries here.

Sean McCormick: The combination of Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch are just destroying the left side of the San Diego line. On third-and-5 with two minutes to go, the Titans ran a stunt that got Vanden Bosch completely free because the guard was so worried about where Haynesworth was going.

David Lewin: I wonder if Chris Chambers is actually going to hurt San Diego's offense? On the play before the game tying touchdown they threw a fade to Chambers which he obviously failed to catch. Normally they run this play for Gates, who is much better at it, but somehow people remain convinced that Chambers is good. Fortunately the Chargers came to their sense on the next play and threw a fade to Gates -- which he caught. Nonetheless, they wasted a crucial down passing to the lowest percentage receiver in the NFL at the expense of one of the highest.

Aaron Schatz: When Vince Young came out, Russell Levine and Tim Gerheim talked a lot about how he couldn't be compared to Michael Vick because his running style was so different. When he ran, he ran with purpose, and he rarely ran into traffic, normally taking a path that would get him out of bounds without contact. Well, now he's running like Vick. When the pass pressure gets there, he doesn't see a clear lane and go. He bends his knees a little, looks like he's struggling with indecision, goes into "action figure mode," and gets like two yards before he gets tackled. Not a good development for Mr. Young.

Vince Verhei: I think the comparisons between Vick and Young are absurd. Young is Vick with a weaker arm and less foot speed. They do have the same tendency to freeze up in a panicky "I don't know what to do!" manner. But I've yet to see one thing Young does on a football field better than Vick. Vick would at least tease you once in a while with a miraculous play before crashing back down to earth.

On the plus side for Tennessee, as long as Albert Haynesworth is playing, their defense will keep the game close and winnable against any opponent south or west of Massachusetts.

And speaking of quarterbacks who have lost their luster, I present Philip Rivers. Another week, another mention that Norv Turner is a horrible coach. Hey, here's a thought: Last year, the Chargers made the playoffs and lost their first game, then fired the coach. If they lose their first playoff game this year -- and with Jacksonville looming, that seems likely -- will they fire the coach again?

Aaron Schatz: Vince, your comments about Vick vs. Young are fine for the Vince Young of 2007, but I'm talking about how Young's response to the pass rush has declined this year. It's too bad that our resident Vince Young expert is over in Germany, but I'm sure he would agree with me. Texas Vince Young did not freeze up in that panicky "I don't know what to do!" manner. Honestly, 2006 NFL rookie Vince Young didn't freeze up in that panicky "I don't know what to do!" manner. I don't know what the problem is this year, but something is different. Part of the whole league-wide regression of second-year starting quarterbacks.

Sean McCormick: Sans Jay Cutler, who is, in Mike Mayock's words, "spinning it."

Vince Verhei: You know that commercial where Peyton Manning is opening doors in a hallway, then his inner child tells him to throw to Clark? I think young quarterbacks, young running quarterbacks in particular, don't see the doors. They try the first one, and if it doesn't work, they take off down the hallway, leaving the inner child shouting something about a hot read. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Then they get too much knowledge, and start thinking about all the things they're NOT supposed to do, and suddenly they see all these doors and don't even know which one to open first.

Ned Macey: Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but the Chargers rank seventh in DVOA coming into this week, just went on the road against one of the very best defenses in football when Haynesworth is healthy and gutted out an impressive comeback. All in a game when their starting quarterback was hurt. And we're still taking shots at Norv? I'm also pretty sure the Chargers would be favorites even by DVOA numbers if they host the Jaguars. I reiterate, the Norv Turner hiring was a mistake, but it is not a great catastrophe that has ruined an otherwise perfect team.

Arizona Cardinals 21 at Seattle Seahawks 42

Doug Farrar: I simply don't understand the thought process behind bringing Shaun Alexander in for goal-line situations anymore. On Seattle's first drive, two nice Nate Burleson catches and a Maurice Morris run got the Seahawks to the Arizona three-yard line, and Alexander came in. First, this isn't fair to Morris, who's the far better back right now. Second, neither back is anything to write home about in the red zone. Third, bringing Alexander in is roughly equivalent to having Mike Holmgren hold up a big sign that says, "HEY! WE'RE GOING TO RUN THE BALL!" And why run it right behind Chris "The Human Turnstile" Gray? Shaun gets pushed back two yards. Morris comes back in, incomplete pass, field goal. There isn't a thing about Shaun Alexander that fits this offense at this point.

Bill Barnwell: Except that they both peaked two years ago?

Doug Farrar: Patrick Kerney has been stunting inside over the last couple of weeks. That's been a really effective thing for Seattle. He was right there for an important stop on Edgerrin James with that move. Plus, he's just killing Kurt Warner and giving Levi Brown a very expensive education. The Seahawks defense is mixing up pressure and coverage very well, though I wish they'd be a bit more aggressive on the injured Larry Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage. I don't care who it is, if a guy can barely get up after a catch and he's limping all the time, maybe 10-yard cushions aren't a great idea.

And speaking of great receivers, most of you will see the highlight of the Bobby Engram touchdown catch, when he was practically horizontal in the end zone and brought the ball into his chest in time. This is a guy who suffered from Graves' disease last year, and now he's having the best season of his career. He'll be 35 in January. It's hard for me to avoid sounding like a homer when I talk about him.

The scrum that Sean Locklear and Darnell Dockett got into after Dockett ripped Chris Spencer's helmet right off his head has a bit of a past. Dockett has gotten away with quite a few late hits and horse collars in his esteemed career (the NFL evidently thinks that after-the-fact fines make up for missed calls), and the Seahawks were steaming mad a couple of weeks ago when a Rams defender ripped Rob Sims' helmet off his head and a flag wasn't even thrown. At least this time, Dockett was penalized.

Ben Riley: Ken Whisenhunt is going to be a very good coach for Arizona, but 1) the Cardinals are losing by 22 points with a minute left to play; 2) Patrick Kerney has been murdering Kurt Warner all afternoon; and 3) Larry Fitzgerald's playing with one leg. Hey Ken, time to take Kurt and Larry out of the game. They are entitled to careers.

The pessimism circus just left Seattle (bound for Detroit, I believe). The Hawks defense is playing lights-out over the last four weeks. Marcus Trufant had three picks today, Kerney another three sacks, and it ain't easy to run on Rocky Bernard and Brandon Mebane. Add Peterson and Tatupu and ... OK, Brian Russell is still a liability, but there's a lot to love about this defense. If you're from Seattle, that is.

Doug Farrar: Russell's OK in coverage, but he tackles like a girl. And I ain't talking about Holley Mangold.

The offense is coming around, and Matt Hasselbeck is running it to near-perfection. The defense is the best of the Holmgren era. They need to cut long snapper Boone Stutz before he even leaves the stadium, though. Special teams have become a real concern after a mostly wonderful year.

Ben Riley: Yes, in the spirit of non-pessimism, I didn't want to say anything about Seattle's special teams, which have fallen off a cliff. Part of the problem is that Josh "Franchise" Brown is getting about one nanosecond of hangtime on his kicks. Part of the problem is that punter Ryan Plackemeier has been ordered to kick to guys like Brian Westbrook. And, as Doug rightly notes, a BIG part of the problem is that the long snapper is someone actually named Boone Stutz.

Cleveland Browns 24 at New York Jets 18

Sean McCormick: Kerry Rhodes made his fourth interception in as many games, and it was a thing of beauty. The Browns ran a play-action bootleg with the action going left and Anderson rolling right to try and hit a receiver crossing from left to right. As soon as Rhodes saw the fake, he knew exactly where the ball was going and he broke on the ball well before Anderson threw it.

For all the grief that D'Brickashaw Ferguson gets for being understrength at the point of attack, it's Nick Mangold's lack of strength that is crippling to the run game. Mangold just cannot get push against anyone. The Jets had the ball on the two, tried to hammer it in twice and Mangold was stood up and stopped in his tracks both times (as was the runner following behind). It forced the Jets to throw on third down, and Sean Jones picked off Kellen Clemens in the end zone. It's possible that Mangold is playing hurt, as he's been dinged up for much of the year, but his inability to generate push on the inside is really limiting the offense.

Cleveland is using Joshua Cribbs a lot in their base packages. They line him up tight along the sideline with Braylon Edwards and motion him inside to give him a free release in the slot so he can run vertical routes. Cribbs seems to be on the field more than Joe Jurevicius. Has Cleveland been doing this all year, or is it a function of Cribbs' return success?

Mike Tanier: Cribbs has not been used much in the base package before now. He was a third or fourth wideout most of the year. I think he has always been listed as the No. 3, but the Browns often use Kellen Winslow as their third receiver and insert Steve Heiden at tight end.

Sean McCormick: Braylon Edwards is just too big and strong for Darrelle Revis today. Revis has been matched up in man coverage for most of the game, and even though his coverage has been tight, Edwards has been able to use his body to make the catch. Edwards caught a fade on fourth down that was thrown to his back shoulder by simply spinning around and plucking the ball from Revis' shoulder. He also had a huge gain on a crossing pattern where he pushed Revis to the ground as Revis tried to play the ball. Edwards finished off the drive by catching another fade, this time by going up over Revis.

Vince Verhei: So besides the rejuvenated quarterback, and the rebuilt offensive line, and the elite tight end, and the emerging wide receiver, it turns out there's something else to like about the Cleveland offense: the running back. I always thought Jamal Lewis was a powerful straight-line guy, who would run into a pile and either stop right there or burst through it for a big gain. But today I saw him making cuts, changing direction, making guys miss in the open field. I suspect a lot of this had to do with the fact he was playing the Jets.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at New England Patriots 34

(Before kickoff...)

Aaron Schatz: On NFL Matchup, Jaws pointed out that both Philadelphia and Baltimore have pressured Tom Brady by bringing speed against the two tackles outside, especially Nick Kaczur. Kaczur may be the only player in the Patriots' starting 22 who is a below-average starter in the NFL, and he's the clear weak link on this team. My guess is that if the Steelers win today, zone blitzes that exploit Kaczur will be a major factor. We'll see if I'm right...

Stuart Fraser: I've been planning to do something on Pittsburgh's pass rush, looking at how many defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs they rush on each play. Unfortunately I first got the idea to do this after the Miami game, which probably wasn't typical, and last week was too busy and I was too tired to look at the Bengals game.

My notes for Miami suggest that Pittsburgh doesn't zone blitz anywhere near as often as they have the reputation of doing, but that could just have been Dick LeBeau being vanilla because it was impossible to execute offense in that weather anyway.

In either case, it's not entirely necessary to zone blitz to bring a speed rusher against a tackle -- there's a limit to how often you're going to want to bring a defensive back against New England's offense (especially if the Steelers are starting both backup safeties -- anybody heard anything about Polamalu yet?), but Pittsburgh's various outside linebackers aren't what I'd call bull-rush types. The 2-4-5 and 2-5-4 sets might well see a lot of use, with Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the game.

(Steelers running back Najeh Davenport goes deep for a 32-yard touchdown catch)

Sean McCormick: Najeh Davenport?

Stuart Fraser: Najeh. That was a pretty standard Pittsburgh "Right, a rusher got through the line, Ben scrambles outside and all the receivers run in a random direction until one of them gets open" play. I am pretty certain that play call didn't intend for Davenport to go deep.

Stuart Fraser: The Steelers are using an awful lot of the Eleven Angry Men, or the Mixer as CBS prefer to call it, mostly on third down. I'm guessing that LeBeau noticed that Baltimore's version of it was pretty successful in getting pressure on Brady, and decided to copy it. The Ravens also lined up with no D-linemen covering large sections of the Patriots' line on several occasions, and the Steelers are doing that too.

I've never really looked at Rex Ryan's defense for things he's stolen from LeBeau, so I'm not sure if the Pittsburgh and Baltimore brain trusts copy each other shamelessly, or if it's just a one-way thing.

Aaron Schatz: At halftime, this is really a good game with two good teams playing very good football, combined with one major coverage screw-up per team and the easily predicted Pittsburgh special teams mishap. Anybody who thought the Steelers were coming out to stuff the ball down the Patriots' throat with the run game was clearly wrong. Willie Parker just is not that kind of back, and he's been stuffed a ton with a couple of long runs. Luckily, Pittsburgh has an excellent quarterback with a talent for improvisation. I don't know if this is a specific tactic against Roethlisberger, but the Pats seem to be rushing only three on a good number of downs.

By the way, Ian and I have no idea what Shannon Sharpe said at halftime. At all. In any attempted sentence.

Tim Gerheim: Given that I'm in Germany, where football lies somewhere between curling and cricket in the sports popularity hierarchy, I'm going to have to have someone explain this one, because I can't wait for the nfl.com highlight to come out tomorrow:

T.Brady FUMBLES (Aborted) at NE 35, recovered by NE-R.Moss at NE 35. R.Moss to NE 33 for -2 yards. T.Brady pass deep left to J.Gaffney for 56 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Stuart Fraser: It was a straight-out-of-the-Pittsburgh playbook trick play. It wasn't an aborted snap though -- Brady threw a pass backwards to Randy Moss, who fumbled, recovered, lateraled it back to Brady, who (under)threw the bomb to Jabar Gaffney, who was wide-open because Anthony Smith had bitten hard on all the trickery. (Despite this, Brady's throw was short enough that Smith almost managed to recover his position).

Sean McCormick: Think the old Tom Matte back to Earl Morrall followed by a long touchdown to Jimmy Orr. Only with a fumble in there.

Doug Farrar: Except that this time Morrall (Brady) actually saw Orr (Gaffney) in this case. Gaffney didn't have to wave his arm in vain.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, that one is in the Patriots' playbook too. They ran it last year against San Diego, with Daniel Graham, but Graham mistakenly threw the pass back to Brady forwards instead of backwards. Amazing play, but it almost didn't work, not only because of the Moss fumble but also because the ball hung in the air and Anthony Smith almost made it back to slap it away. Interesting wrinkle, if you watched the replay: Gaffney pauses in the middle of the field to try to sell the original backwards pass to Moss, then accelerates again to go into the end zone.

Mike Tanier: Did Aaron just inform us that a play the Patriots ran is in the Patriots' playbook?

Tim Gerheim: The best football analysis on the Web.

Aaron Schatz: Y'all know what I meant. I meant this wasn't the first time they've run this play in a game. Clearly, the Patriots figured out that the slant was there when the Steelers blitzed, and that was that. The Patriots ran something like 34 straight pass plays. Absurd. I was a little surprised the Steelers offense couldn't keep up. I'm curious what people think of the play call to run the Hines Ward tight end-around on fourth-and-goal.

Vince Verhei: I thought it was ridiculous. By calling that play, Mike Tomlin was basically saying, "I bet I can catch Bill Belichick's team unprepared for something." That's a bet nobody should ever take.

Just as remarkably, New England takes the ball over with a first- and-10 at its own one-yard line, and opens in the shotgun, putting Brady right in the middle of his own end zone. So now we know that they will truly use the shotgun anywhere. And this was when the death-by-a-thousand-flats-to-Wes-Welker began. (I just checked the play-by-play. The phrase "12-T.Brady pass short right to 83-W.Welker" appears five times in a row, all complete, for a total of 63 yards.)

Stuart Fraser: I thought the flat to Welker from the end zone was a smart (also fairly obvious) play call. In that game situation, it's obvious that if Brady stands back in the shotgun Pittsburgh will bring a big blitz and go for the safety, because it's the only thing that might get them back in the game. So the quick flat to the slot receiver has a good chance at going for a ton of yardage, which it did.

The next four flats were kind of taking the piss, but, again, this is against a team that never seems to adjust, so...

Mike Tanier: Slant/flats with Moss on the slant and Welker in the flat seem unbeatable today. Welker is open in the flat every time I look up.

Stuart Fraser: I think in most respects that was a fairly traditional '07 Steelers loss -- on the road (outside of Ohio), and characterized by a failure to adjust to the opposition. When facing New England's spread offense in good weather, with half your starting secondary injured, well, frankly you're going to lose anyway, but some adjustments are probably called for. Pittsburgh seemed to be almost entirely using the same defensive gameplan they'd used against Cincinnati -- right down to leaving Ike Taylor on Randy Moss as if he were Chad Johnson. Taylor's a good corner, but he's not that good. To be fair it did work on some series, before Brady adjusted to throwing with a pass rusher in his face (which I thought he did fantastically well).

Pittsburgh's offense was mostly fine between the 20s and died in the red zone. I don't know what precisely was wrong with it there. Santonio Holmes clearly wasn't at 100 percent, which probably didn't help, because Nate Washington isn't really consistent enough to be on the field as much as he is. (Washington is a great slot receiver when he remembers to catch the ball). Pittsburgh didn't feature Heath Miller anywhere near as much as I might have expected. Again, this might well be a sign of "game-planning is for wimps," since the tight end across the middle is part of the standard anti-Patriots offense. Of course, it's difficult to open up the underneath areas for your tight end if your deep-threat wide receiver is not at full effectiveness.

In conclusion, I'm now much less worried about a rematch in the playoffs, on the grounds that it's looking increasingly unlikely the Steelers will get that far.

Ned Macey: As any dutiful Colts fan must do, I root against the Patriots almost every week. That being said, I obviously have the utmost respect for them. What I really like is that they dominate without giving a damn about conventional wisdom. They appear to me to be running a similar offense to the one that Oakland ran in 2002, which was run by Bill Callahan, who had no pedigree. You have to have a unique offense to do it (as the Eagles tried but failed), but there is no reason you have to run the ball. Wes Welker is basically their running back. (Something similar can be said about the way they go for it on fourth down all the time.)

I feel like a sports radio host trying to drive calls by saying absurd things, but Wes Welker is not one of the 35 best receivers in football. I think he is PERFECT for what the Patriots are trying to do, but no team outside of New England would or should ever give up a second-rounder for him. The Pats obviously should because he allows them to do what they are doing, but he spends most of his time covered by nickel backs and the occasional linebacker, but he has the worst DVOA of any Pats receiver (Watson and Gaffney included). Peter King beats this horse every week (and we'll see it again Monday after the "Welker drive"), but the Dolphins got a haul for what in a normal offense is a solid but unspectacular receiver.

As for the Ward call, I don't think it had anything to do with preparation, but when they went empty and motioned Ward, I knew they were calling an end-around. I think it was a terrible call, period.

Bill Barnwell: That was sort of the point I made about Welker before the season. He has a 20% DVOA in the greatest offense of all-time. All three other wideouts are above him. Is he useful? Sure. Is he worth a second-round pick? Not really. This offense would be just as good with Gaffney in the Welker role and a healthy Chad Jackson in the Gaffney role.

Vince Verhei: If Welker is being covered by nickel backs and the occasional linebacker, then who's covering Gaffney? Nose tackles and beer vendors?

Ben Riley: Bill Barnwell, I drafted Wes Welker for my fantasy team. Wes Welker is a friend of mine. Jabar Gaffney, sir, is no Wes Welker. Seriously, he's a good wide receiver. He didn't play great tonight but almost any team in the NFL would be happy to trade a second-round pick for an 84-catch, seven-TD guy who seems to always be open on third down. And yes, I'm channeling my inner Peter King right now. Would you like to hear about my experience in Starbucks this week?

Bill Barnwell: You're ignoring the point. They use Walker in that role. I'm saying they could use Gaffney in the same role (say, if Welker had gotten hurt), and they wouldn't skip a beat. Is Welker better than Gaffney in that role? Maybe. Is the difference between the two worth a second-round pick? No.

Ben Riley: My point, and I do have one, is that Wes Welker is much, much better than Jabar Gaffney in that role, or any other role the Patriots might imagine. Wes Welker is good, Jabar Gaffney is below average. And that difference is/was well worth the Patriots' second round pick.

Bill Barnwell: OK. So what makes you say that Wes Welker is good and Jabar Gaffney is below average?

Ben Riley:

  • Wes Welker, 2005, rookie year: 434 yards, 56% catch rate, 14.1% DVOA
  • 2006: 687 yards, 67% catch rate, 0.1% DVOA
  • This year: 84 catches, 896 yards, 7 touchdowns

Plus, he's shifty and hard to cover, makes tough catches over the middle, returns punts, and Bill Belichick thought he was dangerous enough to trade for him. In contrast:

  • Jabar Gaffney, 2005: 492 yards, 61% catch rate, -13.4% DVOA
  • 2006: 142 yards, 55% catch rate, 8.5% DVOA
  • This year: 22 catches, 237 yards, 3 touchdowns

If Gaffney was as good as Wes Welker, he had all of 2006 to prove it. Instead, he had a whopping 11 receptions on a team that wasn't exactly teeming with wide receiver talent. Welker is clearly outplaying him this year. I don't think this is a borderline call. Welker is much, much better than Gaffney.

Bill Barnwell: You can't have it both ways, though, if you're going to use DVOA as the measuring stick. Gaffney's more of a downfield threat than Welker is. His DVOA this year is better than Welker's in the same offense. In previous years, Welker was playing in a better passing offense than Gaffney. Is Gaffney not shifty and hard to cover? I would say he is. He also didn't have all of 2006 to prove it. He only spent a few games on the Patriots roster and once he learned the playbook, he did step up and put up big numbers in the playoffs. I'm not saying he's used as much. I'm saying he could do the same job.

If your argument is "Bill Belichick says as much", hey, that's fine, but just because Belichick acquired him doesn't mean Gaffney couldn't do it, either.

Mike Tanier: This discussion has gone to mediation:

1) Watching game film, it is pretty clear that a lot of Welker's catches come on little flat routes that most receivers could run well. The key is that Moss or Stallworth takes the cornerback past his depth on those routes. The split between Welker and Gaffney is not that wide.

2) It is hard to argue that the Patriots paid too much for Welker when they are currently undefeated and score a bajillion points per game, and they still managed to get a first round pick from a lousy team. Arguing that Welker isn't worth a 2nd round pick in isolation may have merit. Arguing he isn't worth it in the context of the Patriots, who wheeled-and-dealed to get Moss cheap and grab the Niners pick is different.

3) Does the player make the system or the system make the player? A job for Socrates.

Ryan Wilson: I have no idea how the game would've turned out, but Anthony Smith changed the momentum on those two blown coverages. The Steelers rebounded from the first play-action from Brady to Moss, but the Brady-to-Moss-to-Brady-to-Gaffney touchdown to start the third quarter was a backbreaker. Stuart mentioned the Steelers' defense inability to make adjustments, but it's important to remember that the Pats' offense was rolling. You have to blitz Brady, and with Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu on the sidelines, you can only expect so much from the backups in coverage.

By the way, some Steelers fans have been calling for Smith to replace Clark since last season. There's a reason the Redskins missed Clark after they let him walk following the '05 season. He's a smart player who understands the responsibilities that go along with playing free safety.

Offensively, the Steelers did a lot well, in the first half, anyway. Ben Roethlisberger looks as sharp as ever, Willie Parker ran hard for the first time in a month, and the offensive line might've played their best game of the season, particularly in pass protection. This loss isn't shocking, but how the Steelers rebound next week against the Jags will say much more about Mike Tomlin's ability to prepare his players.

Oh, and on the end-around to Hines Ward on the goal line ... yeah, that was Bruce Arians' call, and I wasn't even shocked when I saw it. Doesn't mean I like it, but as Bill Cowher likes to say, it is what it is. Arians has caught some flak for shoddy play-calling this season, but I think he's done pretty well, what with the spotty pass blocking, and the running game sometimes disappearing for long stretches.

One more thing: Anthony Smith should've been flagged on the cheap shot he laid on Donte' Stallworth on the overthrow in the end zone. I was bellyaching to MDS earlier this week that LaRon Landry gave a cheap shot to Muhsin Muhammad on a similar play on Thursday, and this was virtually the same situation.

Aaron Schatz: I hope that Arnold Harrison of the Steelers gets fined a good amount for losing his cool and slamming Kyle Eckel in the back as he walked off the field after that last punt. That was not cool.

Indianapolis Colts 44 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Stuart Fraser: OK, this game is getting somewhat ridiculous -- not the actual plays, just that a player goes down injured after every third snap. Any theories as to why?

(A brief pause as the Ravens shoot themselves in the foot further to the tune of a turnover and a safety.)

Perhaps the plays are more ridiculous than the injuries. Jeez. It's almost as if the Ravens are trying to show the Steelers how to get properly blown out by one of the top AFC teams.

Ben Riley: Here's a question for someone with a rulebook. I know teams can elect to punt in lieu of a kickoff (as Baltimore just punted after the safety, presumably because of the rain). But can you onside punt?

Doug Farrar If you can, it might explain Ryan Plackemeier's recent performances. "No, I didn't shank another one, Coach. That was an onside punt!"

Stuart Fraser: At Football Outsiders, we often talk about how raw yardage stats can paint a misleading picture of a team's performance. Sometimes, however, they encapsulate an evening nicely. Passing yardage, one hour in: Indianapolis 133, Baltimore 9 (and actually more like -40 if you include the interception return).

Aaron Schatz: It's 9:30 p.m. and I just got home from picking up my daughter from her grandma's. I'm confused. Is this Sunday Night Football, or a performance of Edwin Abbott's classic novel "Emotionally Flatland?"

Ned Macey: Watching Kyle Boller's sterling performance tonight, maybe the Colts should play Jim Sorgi against the Patriots if they make it to the AFC Championship game.

Doug Farrar: The fourth quarter was notable for one thing: John Madden talking up Troy Smith like he was Mayock on Cutler, basically throwing Boller under the bus and saying that Brian Billick might as well see what Smith can do for the rest of the season. Then again, why not? Isn't it about time for another quarterback experiment in Baltimore?

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 10 Dec 2007

296 comments, Last at 19 Mar 2013, 11:32pm by will my ex ever call me again

Comments

1
by inkakola (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:18pm

after watching the pats have so much trouble with the ravens in bad weather and then smoke the steelers, does it kinda seem like the colts are better off facing them at foxboro, if theres a rematch in the championship game? i definitely like the colts chances better in bad weather than inside a dome where moss would run amok.

2
by flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:19pm

No comments on JaMaruss Russell so ridiculously bundled up on the sidelines that there was only about 1/8th of a inch of exposure for his eyes? I'm disappointed! I thought for sure someone would have something funny to say about that.

3
by Frick (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:35pm

Whenever the ad comes up before the article, I lose the ability to navigate with the arrow keys or home and end buttons. I'm using XP and IE if it matters. It's not a huge issue, but annoying.

4
by BK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:36pm

Is a second round pick all that valuable to the Pats? This year, the only draft pick who made the team was the first (B Merriweather) and he's barely seen the field. And if the Pats win the super bowl this year and then can weather the free agent defections and retirements in good shape, there's a chance that only two draft picks even make the roster next year. So I think the Pats trading the second choice in the draft for a boat load of picks, I think, misses the point. Even with the salary cap implications, I'd rather take a once in a generational player like McFadden over a boat load of late first and second round picks.

5
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:38pm

On the safety kick - I don't know that I've ever seen a team not punt the ball there. They can punt, dropkick or kick off without a tee
Welker is a better WR than Gaffney. He just is. If FO stats are the only ones allowed, his 3x DPAR (through week 13) should settle that. Welker is also being penalized for not-really-fumbles since DVOA assumes a 50% chance of losing a fumble, when his fumbles were just OoB jobs or momentary drops as he was tackled that were never in any danger of being lost. Heath Miller and Casey Fitzsimmons are not the top TE in the league, but they lead in DVOA.

6
by zzyzx (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:39pm

"Worse yet, doesn’t OPI also involve a loss of down? So by declining the penalty, didn’t the Lions choose third-and-1 at the 12 instead of third-and-10 at the 3?"

No, it doesn't. Just a 10 yarder.

7
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:45pm

1, Yeah I said ever since the Colts loss to the Pats that its gonna be a big advantage for them playing in bad weather. I think it would be better for the Pats to pla in Indy, actually.

And I'm guessing Indy is gonna be number 2 in DVOA now after the Boys struggled. Man what a bad game that was by the defense. I was convinced I was having nightmares most of the game. They just gashed the Boys on the ground. Oh well, at least they won.

8
by DrObviousSo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:46pm

In the beginning of the season, the Steeler's bread and butter red zone tactic was to flood the end zone with big white guy tight ends. Since then, one BWGTE has been injured, and another other has seen reduced playing time.

That leaves just one BWGTE, and he usually is held in to block. I couldn't tell yo why Spaeth isn't getting as much playing time.

9
by Nick (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:49pm

While I disgaree that they wouldn't miss a beat with Gaffney taking Welker's spot, there's at least an argument to be had. Chad Jackson, on the other hand, can't even get on the field on offense. If he's replacing Gaffney, that would hurt, as mediocre as Gaffney is.

10
by admin :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:52pm

Frick, I am e-mailing ad company about your problem.

11
by Brandon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:52pm

Frick, #3:

It seems the issue is that after redirection from the ad, the address has a # at the end of the URL. Removing this and reloading the page restores navigation.

12
by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:53pm

Sean McCormick,

If you'd like to see footage of Shaun McDonald (and Kevin Curtis) running wide open, we'll just go hop in my time machine and go see some Seahawks games. Getting rid of them is the best thing the Rams have ever done.

13
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:54pm

What, none of you wanted to watch the Denver vs. Kansas City game that was opposite the Patriots game? Come on!

14
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:57pm

"I’ve watched the roster talent slowly slip since the Super Bowl year, all the while straining my eyes to see if Omar Gaither could be as good as the young Trotter or if Brian Dawkins could turn back the clock. Now I miss Cory Simon and Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and nickel backs like Al Harris and Rod Hood. I miss young Dawkins and young McNabb, young Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I don’t want to rebuild, but I don’t want to watch this team, this system, keep slipping."

That pretty much sums it up for the Eagles. It's been a very, very depressing year - occasionally seeing flashes of the old brilliance, but much more often mediocrity or just sucking.

15
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:58pm

Re Vince Verhei's commentary on the OPI decline:

You have the numbers completely wrong. Here's the official PBP:

*1st and 10 at DAL 3
(13:26) J.Jones right tackle to DAL 5 for 2 yards (P.Lenon, K.Kennedy). DET-F.Bryant was injured during the play.

*2nd and 8 at DAL 5
(12:49) T.Romo pass short right to T.Owens pushed ob at DAL 9 for 4 yards (T.Fisher). Penalty on DAL-T.Owens, Offensive Pass Interference, declined.

So the penalty was at the 5 on 2nd and 8, meaning half-the-distance would have made it 2nd and 10 (no, the offense does not lose the down). The catch was for four yards, meaning they chose 3rd and 4 (not 3rd and 1 as you said) over second and 10.

One could argue one way or the other, but it wasn't necessarily a bad decision to pick 3rd and 4 over 2nd and 10. In fact, I'm not so sure it wasn't the *right* decision. Certainly not KCW worthy.

16
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:59pm

Because of a previously mentioned Eagles fan whom I have to interact with on a semi-regular basis, I relish in the team's struggles AND the talent base shrinking. Said fan, who personifies all the worst traits one can imagine about fandom, has explained ad nauseum how the Eagles front office is smarter than anyone else in the NFC, how the team was set for both now and the future and how injuries might derail a season every so often but that Philly would be right THERE at the end every year. That and the constant "Favre's old and he s*cks" mantra.

And should a Packer fan like myself try and engage him in a discussion the response is always, "4th and 26 baby".

So pardon me for being in pretty much constant "Smirk" mode as said Eagles fan pouts, sulks and grouses when the topic turns to football. Better yet, he leaves.

Apologies to Eagles fans HERE for possibly seeming to embellish in THERE discomfort. That is not the case. Just the resident doofus in my neck of the woods.

With the Packers clinching the division today is a d*mn good day.........

17
by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 2:59pm

I watched the first half of the Titans-Chargers game. Wow about the dirtiest game I've seen in years. I guess I never registered 1 player stepping on a guys head last season with the total team being dirty, but wow the Titans played dirty all half. The worst being a very late hit on a kick return where the returner was tackled, rolled stood up helpless and then got hit from behind in the lower legs. No flag. The Titans were hitting at or below the knee all half. Including an odd low hit on Rivers on a hand off long after the ball had already gone to the back. I'm not sure if this is how they always play but the Titans became team number 1 to avoid if they make the playoffs (just for the potential injury factor). And because it's the NFL sure enough LT draws the only personal foul of the half.

18
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:01pm

Argh. "THEIR". Not "THERE".

Cripes. I like to think I can write. Good gravy......

19
by Evan D. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:04pm

Re: #5

If we are just using FO stats, what about DVOA: Gaffney with over 30%, Welker with 20%.

DPAR is a counting stat. So, let's take DPAR / Pass Attempt.
Gaffney - 8.9 / 28 = 0.32
Welker - 25.6 / 111 = 0.23

I'm not saying Gaffney is better. I love watching Welker play, and I think that the way he makes catches on the run does set him apart from a lot of other WRs. But you could still make the argument that Gaffney is just a good based on stats.

20
by Are-Tee (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:04pm

"2006 NFL rookie Vince Young didn’t freeze up in that panicky “I don’t know what to do!� manner. I don’t know what the problem is this year, but something is different."

2006 Vince Young wasn't on the cover of Madden. The curse lives on.

21
by SGT Ben (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:08pm

You cannot have an "onside punt" after a safety. It's the only time in the game where "trickery" is not allowed.

22
by flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:10pm

Badger, what do you think about the GB safety situation? I'm a bit torn. On the one hand, I think Rouse almost certainly has an INT in the first half where Bigby had one bounce off his chest. On the other hand, I doubt Rouse would have made several of the plays both Collins and Bigby made in the running game (especially Collins fourth down stop of Fargas in the first half). In the end, I think perhaps the status quo of Collins and Bigby is best. However, I also think they should have a pretty quick hook on Bigby in the playoffs. Once mentally bad plays begin for him, they seem to snowball (I don't really consider his play on the Raider TD bad. Porter had already ripped the ball away from Harris by the time Bigby got there).

23
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:13pm

"...the offensive line might’ve played their best game of the season, particularly in pass protection..."

Wow. Given that Mike Vrabel destroyed Willie Colon, (such an aprropriate name as he played like sh*t), on just about every play, I'd hate to see a bad game by the Steelers O-line. Does Colon start regularly?

24
by Eric P (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:13pm

Re Welker vs. Gaffney:
Isn't this similar to the backup RB having a better DVOA than the #1 guy affect? Isn't that one of the main reasons we have DPAR? While teams may not be able to truly roll coverage to Welker, or put their better players on him all of the time because of Moss and Stallworth, surely they are paying more attention to him than they are Gaffney, no?

25
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:15pm

flounder:

The only reason Bigby and Collins made those plays is that they could all but ignore what pretends to be the Raiders passing offense. Bigby needs to sit, period. It's been 13 games and unless the receiver hands him a map of where the route is being run beforehand he has no clue as to what to do.

I will take Rouse's instincts over Bigby's alleged "experience".

26
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:17pm

Re: 16
Well, I have to admit that 4th and 26 was pretty awesome. As was the interception Favre threw to Dawkins in OT that led to the Eagles' game-winning FG. However, unless they are playing my Eagles, I usually root for Brett and the Pack. :-)

At least the Packers have won the Super Bowl a couple of times. We're still waiting here in Philly. So that should console you whenever you have to listen to your loud-mouthed Eagles fan acquaintance.

27
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:18pm

Weekly Super-long Post.

Those are the guys that I know and love. Welcome home gentlemen.

With regard to my long-winded thoughts, I have to admit that a birthday party distract my usual laser-like focus on the game, so this may be a little discumbobulated. Feel free to correct any errors.

* Pitt has Brady to thank for that game even being close at halftime. I am sure that he would agree with me that he had a C-/D+ performance in the first half. I'll highlight NE's very first drive to illustrate.

Play #1 - Pitt gets good pressure and collpases the pocket. Brady is forced to dump it off to Faulk but without a good lane Kevin has to make a shoestring catch. A better throw - one that Brady typically makes despite similar pressure - and Faulk probably gets 3-4 more yards than the 4 he actually got. This was the only play that Pitt forced the mistake.

Play #2 - Brady with plenty of time has Welker open up the seam and throws it behind him.

Play #3 - Again, Brady has time. It appears that the coverage is decent, but Brady underthows Stallworth who would have had the first down with a decent throw. Again, there was nothing about the defensive performance on this play that Brady didn't shred in the second half.

Add in a couple other sideline overthrows and an overthrow of Welker (who should have caught it anyway) when he was open for a solid 20 yard gain on a crossing route and you have a mediocre performance for Tommy in the first half. Good thing he was decidedly better than "mediocre" in the second.

* Just one week off on my flea-flicker prediction, dammit! I knew that NE had something in the works for these defenses.

* On that play, I was a little disappointed that the safety was allowed to get back into postion until I saw who it was. Getting completely toasted and then just missing an incredible breakup only to have a dramatic TD scored in your face seemed just right to me.

* Someone said that Bruschi missed the goal-line stuff, but I would have sworn that he was the one who stoned the lead blocking guard. I thought it was one of the best plays of the game, frankly. If it wasn't, could someone let me know who it was, please?

* It seemed to clear up later in the game, but was I alone in seeing that Vrabel was being held on the majority of Pitt's passing plays on their first couple drives? In particular, on the 3rd down red zone thowaway, it was pretty blatant and even ended with the OT grabbing his facemask and pulling him into the turf.

* I think that I have isolated the biggest issue with AD. I keyed in on him on a few plays and it seems to me that he has real issues with changes in direction. Get him a straight line to the target and he is awesome, but if the QB slides forward or the OT rides him just outside enough, he has a hard time recovering and getting back into the play. By comparison, Vrabel is excellent at this and that is one of his greatest attributes as a pass rusher. Hopefully this is a correctible area.

* For all the gnashing of teeth about Maroney, I have to say that he is excellent at selling the play-fake. Time and time again, I see teams being completely fooled leaving them open to deep throws. For some reason, teams still feel the need to focus on Laurence when he is in there. It almost seems as if NE is purposely keeping his plays one dimentional for just this reason.

* Oddly enough, despite the above statement, Pitt really didn't bite that hard on Maroney's playaction on the long Moss TD. Only one ILB moved towards him and it looked like he had coverage responsibilities anyway. The safeties just let Moss go right by them.

* Was it me, or was NE in nickle for most of the second half? Is that how they are going to keep the LBs fresh because they really don't seem to be using anyone but the big 4?

* I was disappointed somewhat in NE's run defense. From what I could tell, Pitt targeted the gap between the DE's and OLBs (C gap I think?) with excellent success. The most disappointing run was the Parker ~35 scamper after Moss' second TD. A stop there and NE has the chance to put the game away early. That run was through that gap on Warren's side, but Pitt ran mostly between Seymour and Thomas with very good success. IIRC, Thomas actually did a decent job of holding his ground, but Seymour was consistenly moved out of the way with a single blocker.

* Indy needs to send NE a giant gift basket for getting the completely deflated Baltimore team they faced. Admittedly, Indy was flying aroung and they played a great game. Baltimore seems to have matchup issues with Indy's speed that NE's size didn't quite bring to the table. So Indy deserves a ton of credit. But by the same token, that was not the same team that we saw last week. They had no fire at all on either side of the ball and Boller reverted back to being one of the worst QBs in the league. My God was he terrible yesterday. Even his completions looked bad. How did he look competent last week again?

BTW, Indy should also be sending baskets to NE for another reason. How often does an 11-2 championship team that lost its two games by 6 combined points face a team that just doesn't care? In any other season, Indy would be the team that teams get fired up for, but NE has just overshadowed this entire season. I just find it amazing that a team that won it all last year and got markedly better seems to fly under the radar.

28
by Mr. Beefy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:19pm

What about the Cowboy body-slamming Jon Kitna? God doesn't like that. :).

29
by Geo B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:19pm

Have to admit as a Steeler fan is there any reason to watch the rest of the season, at best we can end up right back in Foxboro and get hammered again, at worst we lose to Jacksonville and Baltimore and - bleah.

How did the Patriots get this good and how come the Steelers couldn't sack him just once on 46 freaking attempts!

30
by Spike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:20pm

The safety kick gets rules similar to a punt. Receivers can fair catch it or let it roll without penalty, where the kicking team would touch it down. The only "onside" attempt you could make would be to kick it at the other team (as noted, without a tee), hoping for a deflection and recovery.

31
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:23pm

21 - Actually, yes you can have an onside punt after a safety. I was at a game where it happened. It was during the Packers 1996 Super Bowl run vs the Rams in St Louis. The Rams tackled Favre in the end zone. The Packers punted and it had an incredible hang time. The punt was caught by Mike Prior of the Packers. Packers ball. Link at my name. The article states Prior caught it on the bounce, but I swear he got it on the fly. In any case, he was the first one to touch the ball.

32
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:23pm

#21

That's not correct, a safety kick is a free kick and may be recovered by the kicking team after it goes ten yards.

Link in name.

33
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:23pm

"Ned Macey: Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but the Chargers rank seventh in DVOA coming into this week, just went on the road against one of the very best defenses in football when Haynesworth is healthy and gutted out an impressive comeback. All in a game when their starting quarterback was hurt. And we’re still taking shots at Norv? I’m also pretty sure the Chargers would be favorites even by DVOA numbers if they host the Jaguars. I reiterate, the Norv Turner hiring was a mistake, but it is not a great catastrophe that has ruined an otherwise perfect team."

Thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that myself, Ned.

34
by Geo B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:24pm

23 - yes Colon has been starting all season, don't know why, he does not seem to be an improvement over Max Starks who started for the Steelers last year. Yes Vrabel was just blowing by him or getting held by him all day. Still, this was a decent game for a mediocre Steeler O-line, they really miss Jeff Hartings and apparently, Russ Grimm. I think by the rushing numbers and the lower number of Ben R's scrambles most are saying this was a decent game for the Steeler O-line, but I disagree based on their lack of scoring.

35
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:25pm

And when Madden throws a guy under the bus (Boller, above) that's a literal statement. "Here kid, I don't think you're very good. And don't scratch the chrome on the bumper of the Madden Cruiser."

Ned, as a dutiful Colts fan, you root FOR the Pats to blow their wad getting to 17-0. All evidence to the contrary, they're human and mortal and more likely to breakdown after a 17-game sprint than after a 15-game sprint, two weeks of rest, and a moderately challenging playoff game.

Counting my chickens, I know....

36
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:27pm

"Dallas with some Patriots-style good fortune. On third-and-6, Romo tries to scramble and gets the ball knocked out of his hands from behind. The ball squirts forward, hits a Detroit defender, and he proceeds to kick it full speed back towards a Cowboy. A lineman falls on it, Dallas converts on fourth down and their last-gasp drive continues."

Patriots style good fortune? Doesn't something like that happen in every other game Dallas plays? Some sort of wacky offensive fumble that turns into a positive play?

37
by Lac Daddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:28pm

Re # 17

The Chargers kick returner tried to make a cut and fell on his own, untouched. That is why when he got back up, he was tackled by the legs by the Titan defender. The play was still going... hence no late hit.

38
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:29pm

I'll echo the sentiments expressed above about the Detroit/Dallas officiating. That crew seemed really poor. I thought for sure there would be a flag on Barber's spike and couldn't believe they flagged Johnson. Also not sure why Detroit couldn't except both penalties on Romo's spike. I thought dead ball penalties were generally additive, but I guess I was mistaken on that one.

Lots of contact in the passing game that wasn't called. And I've got no clue as to how they ruled that Dallas recovered Barber's fumble. As Aikman noted if you're going to wait until all the guys are unpiled to make the call on possession, how do you give it to the team that doesn't have it?

The Romo legend grows. Funny how one botched fumble recovery by an opposing linebacking can change perceptions.

39
by Son of Brock Landers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:33pm

2006 vince young was also in a one read offense with no game film. i'm pretty sure norm chow set young up in a one read offense to make the transition from his one read u of texas offense easier. they are asking him to make more reads this year and teams have more game film to prepare for him this season.

i secodn the idea of taking vick over young anyday, except today.

40
by Chris M (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:35pm

Question for someone who watches the Eagles more - why do they look great at times and then just drift? Just looking at this Giants game and the Jets game, they came out fast and then couldn't put together a driver for another couple of quarter. Is it because they're too one dimensional?

41
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:36pm

While the Jennings TD was mostly a jump ball, the fact remains that Greg Jennings has taken a startling step forward this season. I know myself and others have remarked upon this already but it's still remarkable to watch. Over and over I read the scouting reports of Greg coming out of Western Michigan and all of the reports were lukewarm as Jennings was deemed a possession receiver who never caught a deep pass.

But there was one guy quoted by the Journal-Sentinel who said this:

"I love him. He has great hands, great run after the catch. Not a real big guy and didn't play at a big school. He's a sleeper guy. He will be an unbelievable pro. There's something about him. He's got the 'it' quality. He acts like a pro and plays hard. He dominated that level."

Thought it was some fellow Western Michigan grad pumping up one of his own. But more and more he's sounding like Nostradamus.

Jennings now has five TD catches of more than 40 yards and is third in the NFL in yards per catch at 17.7. Chalk one up for Mr. Thompson grabbing this guy with the 20th pick in the second round.

42
by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:37pm

Sigh...

Of course nobody was paying attention when Denver finally showed how good they can be. On offense, defense, and even special teams, they utterly dominated KC--and noone was watching or cares.

Where the hell was this all year? This is the Broncos team many expected to see, not the imposters we've seen lose to Oakland by two touchdowns.

Cutler is the best of the class of 2006 quarterbacks now, and he will have the best career of any of them. Watching him play QB is a pleasure, and watching Young run is also great. Even the defense came around, holding KC to 17 yds rushing and several sacks (3 by Dumervil).

The negatives were that Henry looked pretty awful yet again...he's still hurt and shouldn't be playing yet. He did look good in short yardage though, which is where Young had some problems. Champ Bailey was beaten a couple of times today, and simply hasn't been having a good season. On the whole though, a thoroughly enjoyable game for me.

Question: some people have said that if SD wins against Detroit next week, they win the division...what gives? Doesn't Denver have the ability if they win out and SD loses twice to win the division?

Maybe it's that pesky common games winning pct.

43
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:39pm

re: 17

You forgot about the strange sequence involving Merriman. The Titans were running a play where Young handed off but rolled out to the left afterward. Merriman is in full pass rush mode and the tackle is riding him upfield. Young turns his head to watch the play, and runs into Merriman, who has stopped running and puts his hands out to cushion the collision. Of course, Young gets hurt and the Titans blame Merriman. Wtf?

Later on, the Titans run a play so that they can take a crack block at Merriman's knees. Merriman had to leave the game in the second quarter with a knee strain. This wasn't the only time they went after Merriman either, apparently every time he was on the ground Titans were trying to jump on him to take him out of the game.

The Titans played incredibly dirty in a game that they had to win, and I couldn't be happier that the Chargers came back to win it. Merriman's quote after the game:

"We're going to fight you to the end, regardless of what they do. There were a bunch of cheap shots out there, but they can get some cheap shots on the sofa at home while they watch us (in the playoffs)."

44
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:39pm

Re: 28

I felt kinda bad for the Cowboys on that one. It looked to me like Kinta still had the ball when the defender (Ware?) grabs him. Ware's head is down and he can't tell that Kitna has released the ball. I've seen defenders let up in that situation on three occasions (one was that memorable Giants play where Coughlin just went nuts on his guy) and have the QB go on to make a big play.

45
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:40pm

Tony Romo is playing well but as someone with a bit of familiarity with a qb who can be loose with the football those lucky bounces can come back to bite you at the worst possible time. With each forced fumble recovered by Dallas, with each ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE interception resulting in a completion for Dallas, I sense more and more that at some point it all goes KAPLOOEY.

I know this will read as wishful thinking. But having followed Number 4's career the similarities are at minimum startling and at worst, for Dallas fans, frightening.

Cause let me tell ya', when it goes bad. Well, it goes BAD..........

46
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:40pm

In response to Ned's comment about rooting against the Patriots:

I would think Colts fans would have been rooting FOR the Patriots yesterday. For two reasons:

1). Even had the Patriots lost, the Colts were likely not going to catch the Pats for HFA, since the Pats hold the tiebreaker and still would have effectively been two games up on them. But by winning, the Patriots have practically ensured that the Colts will get the other first round bye, since they put Pittsburg back another game AND handed them an in-conference loss (important since there is not head-to-head tiebreaker between the Colts and Steelers).

2). By staying on track for a perfect season, there will be more pressure for the Patriots to play their starters the entire season, rather than resting them up for the playoffs, which should work to the Colts' advantage should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

47
by SGT Ben (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:43pm

I stand corrected. Thank you to #31 and #32 for that. Apparently I didn't dig hard enough and now regret posting. Oh well.

48
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:43pm

"You can’t have it both ways, though, if you’re going to use DVOA as the measuring stick. Gaffney’s more of a downfield threat than Welker is."

Being a better downfield threat does not mean better receiver.

I hate to tell you, but Individual Player DVOA is a joke. Its just awful. Gaffney has a higher DVOA because HES THE FOURTH RECEIVER. Whenever he's on the field, he's either covered by a dime back, a safety, or a linebacker.

Watch the games. Welker IS NOT being covered by nicklebacks and linebackers. He's been DOUBLE COVERED about 8 games this year, and the rest, teams shift a CB over him and put the nickleback on Stallworth.

Welker is better than Gaffney. IMO, hes better than Stallworth.

"In previous years, Welker was playing in a better passing offense than Gaffney."

Based on what? They've both been bad. Both had one bottom of the league year (sub -20%)

49
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:45pm

I can't believe anyone seriously thinks Jabar Gaffney is remotely comparable to Wes Welker.

I've only ever seen one other receiver with that many targets per game and a catch rate of over 70%. His name was Marvin Harrison. If you think that Jabar Gaffney can even dream of being that good, I think you should pause and think about how absurd that sounds.

50
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:48pm

On the Titans being a dirty team: they'd be the dirtiest team in the league just by virtue of Albert Haynesworth playing for them. The fact that the rest of the team is a bunch of dirty, cheap shottting players doesn't hurt either, of course.

51
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:49pm

36: Although he fell on his own, I'm pretty sure he was touched as he was going down (I'll have to check the tape on that, though).

52
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:52pm

Re: 42

I hate to be the bearer of bad news to Mr. Merriman, but I wouldn't count the Titans out of the playoffs just yet. In fact, I think they have probably the best chance to get the 6th spot. Of the three team at 7-6 or better, the Titans have by far the most favorable schedule (KC, NYJ, and an ininterested Colts team in week 17). I would certainly expect them to be favored in every game and think it's likely that they run the table. It's possible Cleveland could nose them out (either outright or via tiebreakers) but I wouldn't count on it.

53
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:55pm

Lost is this beautiful gem from Ron Pitts in the Jax/Car game, in reference to David Garrard's quarterbacking style.

The way Garrard sits back there and throws reminds me of the way that Vince Evans or Doug Williams used to do it

What two wonderfully random QBs from NFL history to just pop into one's head watching Garrard.

Boselli followed up with He just reminds me of a good quarterback. You could hear the incredulousness (if that's not a word, I want full credit) in his voice.

54
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:56pm

A couple of other thoughts in response to some other comments:

Vrabel was living in the Pittsburgh backfield. And he was held. A lot. And the Steelers were called for it. Not as much as he was held, but enough so that I thought the officials were doing a good job. Every pass rusher gets held these days.

Interesting insight about AD and difficulty in direction changes. That could explain the poor run defense around the end. Then again, after reading the excellent TDZ last week, I suspect it might just be good blocking on the part of Pittsburgh and Baltimore...

Regarding Welker: The question is not "is a receiver of Welker's quality worth a 2nd round pick, or could the Pats have gotten by with Gafney". The Question is "Is Welker more valuable, both this season and in the long run, better than any player the Pats could have drafted with that 2nd round pick, or any other player that Pats could have traded that second round pick for". I suspect the answer is no, unless Chicago could have been persuaded to part with Lance Briggs for a 2nd rounder and the Pats could have given him some kind of deal (which I doubt).

In other words, both Welker and Gafney are having pretty good years, and both succeed more because they're both there (along with Stallworth and Moss). Is having BOTH Welker and Gafney better than just Gafney and a 2nd round rookie? Yes.

Incidentally, I know that the CBS-announced starting lineups are pretty meaningless, especially for a team that mixes up their formations a lot, but did anyone else notice that Welker was listed as the #2 WR, and Gafney as the #3? I.e. Stallworth has apparently fallen on the depth chart below BOTH Welker and Gafney?

55
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:57pm

Oswlek,
Fruit baskets on the way shortly. Should I get fruit-of-the-month club, or the standard Harry & David holiday assortment? Both?

Under the radar rocks (preferable to under the bus, that's fer sure).

56
by barr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:57pm

Re: Welker.

For years, the inside slot (catch the pass and get freakin whacked) receiver was Troy Brown. Were Welker to get hurt (knocking on wood), Stallworth, K. Faulk, or Brown would go into the safety blanket/crunched by the safety receiver..

Do you think the Patriots receiver sets are predictable? Have they laid out the best option and are just waiting for someone to figure out how to solve it?

Some of the early discussion about Randy Moss was that he would always be outside. In earlier games, he moved around. Does he seem to stay outside now?

57
by Hoainam (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:00pm

Man, you guys are way more fun to read than TMQ! Keep up the good work.

58
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:00pm

I'm glad other people are noticing that the Titans are a dirty team. I've been noticing that for the last year or so. They're just growing on my mind as a team that I strongly dislike. It seems that every Titans game I see has them throwing cheap shots, and trying to play dirty to throw the other team off their game, and so forth. Just a subjective impression, and maybe I'm biased because of the way they played the Pats in Week 17 last year, but I don't like them.

59
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:01pm

50

Sorry, that should read 'uninterested Colts team...'.

60
by littltrainjames (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:02pm

Re 17 & 42:
Check out the highlights on NFL.com.
They show the Chris Brown touchdown run (where he is _clearly_ horse-collared by Phillips) from a sideline camera: you can actually see one of the Titan lineman smashing a Charger head into the ground long after the play is past them. It's not a face stomping, but it's pretty ridiculous. Am I really to believe that long after every play is over lineman routinely take their counterpart's head and slam it into the ground?

61
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:05pm

#50 - Not really. Clev plays the Bills so either the Browns will be up 2 games and the Bills will be ahead on tiebreaker or the Bills and Clev will both be up 1 plus tiebreakers.
If the Browns win, they're essentially in. They'll have a 1 game cushion, plus tiebreakers and only Cincy and SF in their way. The Titans have a puncher's chance with a Bills win, but only if they run the table (including week 17 against Indy) and they won't control their own destiny.
If the Bills run the table they're in.
If the Browns run the table they're in.
If the Titans run the table, they need some help.

62
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:06pm

56 - I agree, the Titans have drifted over the line from 'hard hitting' to 'dirty' in the last few years.

63
by TGT (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:09pm

@1 I think the difference is simply: Ravens with CBs vs. Pittsburgh without safeties. Screw the weather, just hope half the colts backfield goes down.

64
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:10pm

One question about the titans: I don't watch enough of them to have anything other than cursory oppinions, but Cortland Finnegan is one hell of a tackler. How is he in coverage?

And what does the Titan's pass defense say about Pacman at this point? Product of the system maybe? A good pass rush does wonderful things for CBs.

65
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:11pm

Addendum to 59 - I should have clarified that by 1 game up I meant before the Titans game. Basically, the Browns and Bills are already ahead of the Titans and they both need to be passed for Tenn to get in. Since they're playing each other and the Bills would have the tie breaker even with a loss before Tenn played I had it in my head they were up a game which is wrong.
To clarify:
Bills control their own destiny. Browns very much control their own destiny (and with a win almost clinch). Titans do not.

66
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:14pm

Re: 47 I can’t believe anyone seriously thinks Jabar Gaffney is remotely comparable to Wes Welker.
I’ve only ever seen one other receiver with that many targets per game and a catch rate of over 70%. His name was Marvin Harrison. If you think that Jabar Gaffney can even dream of being that good, I think you should pause and think about how absurd that sounds.

Marvin Harrison is the archtypal case of a player who has inflated statistics that make him appear better than he is because he plays in a great offensive system with a great quarterback. I think you're making the case of the Welker doubters for them. That said, I agree that Welker is better than Gaffney. All you need to say to undermine the case for Gaffney over Welker is "sample size." There's a reason that Gaffney is listed in the "Receiving, Others" section instead of the "Receiving" section.

67
by Athelas (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:15pm

A few questions/thoughts:

--What does "taking the piss" mean?

--Raiders defense: Can someone who pays more attention than I do to the Raiders (raiderjoe? patriotsgirl?) tell me whether they have lost an asst. to Ryan that may help to explain the dropoff? I remember there was a curious lack of regret when Ryan left the Patriots (although it seemed everyone thought he was good and liked him)

--#3 I get mostly female-related ad redirects; does this site know I'm female?

--Remarkably, I just heard an interesting point on sports talk radio: Mike Tomlin was the DC for Minn when the Patriots went in and did nothing but pass to beat them in 2006 and seemed to be stubborn yesterday about keeping in "the big fatties" even though the Patriots were barely even pretending to run. Is he too stuck in the "we're going to do what we do" and doesn't change the game plan enough for individual teams?

--The Titans have seemed like a very dirty team to me, but that might just be the Patriots fan in me talking.

--One of the reasons I love this site: the kick after safety talk. Last week the posters here were more correct about the kickoff from the opponent's 35 than Belichick was.

68
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:16pm

37,

I don't know, I thought Romo was amazing. Yeah the fumble was lucky but othere than that he wa practically perfect. I said after the game I thought that was the best game he's played all year. Didn't force anything, moving around, just right on the money. I don't see how you couldn't be impressed with his play.

And 44, Somehow I think we'll manage if he turns out to be anything near number 4. And we've already seen the bad, remember the Buffalo game. Certainly nothing to be frightened about having a ridiculously good QB for the next ten years. :)

69
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:16pm

#50:
I hope for their sake that the Colts intend to rest their starters in their last game against the Titans - they don't take it kindly when teams show up to play for games they are expected to just roll over. They'll break out the brass knuckles. Ask the Pats.

As for the Welker/Gaffney thing, would anyone be even thinking about the comparison if Jabar had not happened to catch a TD each in the last three games (all of which on the lucky side, btw), after doing little the rest of the season, while WW had a single sub-par showing @BAL? I think WW is definitely better, and quite arguably one of the best short route "specialist" receivers in the NFL. Not every team needs one of those, but the Pats definitely do, and have for years. Keeping that in mind, they did not overpay for him, but it wasn't a deal for every team.

70
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:20pm

Re #17 and others
All in the eye of the beholder...

On the play where Rivers was injured, the slanting DL was pushed in the back of the offensive lineman and fell to the ground.

What looked to some like Merriman cushioning the blow looked to me like Merriman extending himself for a hit that also caught VY directly in the helmet, if I'm remembering the play right. I thought it was an obvious personal foul, and Merriman was lucky not to be flagged. As to why Merriman was being blocked, it was so he couldn't run the play down from behind.

I didn't see the play on which Merriman was injured, and therefore won't comment on it.

On VY:
Yesterday was clearly his worst game in a month or more. Both of the interceptions resulted from bad reads, not that the throws were that great either. I'm pretty sure #36 is absolutely right, that he's being asked to make more reads this year and he's struggling to adjust. Teams have also realized he doesn't always respond properly to shown pressure, even if it doesn't come-the Titans have tried to counteract this, keeping 7 in at the snap, but it hasn't always helped. That also means you have 3 route runners going up against 7, 8, or even 9 defenders, so it's tough to find open WRs. This goes double when the WRs are as bad as the Titans' are.

One of his two official rushes came on a play where he thought he had a running lane, then hesitated because he saw White flaring off to the left side. He tried to move over there, so he could get the ball to him, but didn't have a chance to do that, and ended up half-heartedly taking a rushing lane for a yard. I have a tough time faulting VY for this play-White needed to give him more help, and he didn't.

For the record, the Titans with VY have never beaten a 3-4 team.

71
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:23pm

Athelas,

I seem to get mostly female redirects, too, and I'm male. So either the site doesn't care, or it is really bad at guessing gender.

72
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:24pm

#58 I checked out the video and thought the head smush was pretty subtle at full speed. In slow-mo from the end zone angle it looked worse, but as it happened live, the defender and RB were close. Your point is still valid though, that the defender was prone with a blocker on top of him, so unless he could levitate pretty damn fast, there was no need to make him kiss turf. It was pretty shabby, but probably a judgement call at game-speed..

The horse collar was even worse.

73
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:25pm

Re: 59

Yes the winner of the Browns/Bills game will control their own fate. But the Bills have to play the Giants and Philly after that (I doubt they'll be favored in either game unless the Eagles signal that they're packing it in). The Browns have the 49ers (a game they should win) and Bengals. The Cincy game is on the road and while the Bengals won't be playing for anything, there is enough of a rivalry that I suspect the Bengals can win it. If the Browns lose to either the Bengals or Bills they will have as many conference losses as the Titans.

Net, the Titans do need help, I just think it's likely that they get it. The Titans are likely to be strong favorites in all three games. The Browns may be favorites in all three, but two of them are tight. The Bills are probably underdogs in all three games.

74
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:26pm

BadgerT1000 - as a Viking fan I should be a Green Bay hater - but the Packers are probably my second favourite team. I think that's a Favre thing - he's just so difficult to dislike.

If the Vikes don't win I sure hope the Pack does.

I hope the Viking Fans won't disown me

75
by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:29pm

It's a set up...it's all a set up...we will be back...chip on our shoulder included...in the mean time, stay alive, get those safeties healthy and accumulate anger...furious anger...

76
by Spoilt Victorian Child (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:29pm

Question for someone who watches the Eagles more - why do they look great at times and then just drift? Just looking at this Giants game and the Jets game, they came out fast and then couldn’t put together a driver for another couple of quarter. Is it because they’re too one dimensional?
There is a lot of money to be made in answering this question.

77
by Brian G. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:29pm

If anything, the Colts should send the Pats a gift basket for taking Rolle and McAllister out of the game. Me-thinks those 2 deep bombs to Gonzalez probably aren't there if Rolle and McAllister aren't injured. I didn't find the rest of the defense to be particularly deflated, just bizarrely focused on stopping the run. Almost every run play ended in 2-yards and a pile of purple. Did they really think the Colts wouldn't go after those back-up corners like a fat-kid in a candy store?
Anyway, in the interest of fairness, and b/c I have been one of those who have railed against NE for running up the score, I will admit that the final TD bomb to Gonzalez, when they were already up by 30 points, was, for all intents and purposes, "piling it on". While I think the intent was not to "kill them" but rather to give Gonzalez some more reps/confidence, it was still a bit much against a clearly defeated team.
Regardless, it was nice to see the old Colts aerial assault offense again. Manning was absurdly efficient. 249 yards on 13 complete passes. That's an average of 19.16 yards per pass. Hell, even Charlie 'Turnstyle' Johnson wasn't half bad. Now, if they can just get Harrison, Diem and Brock back(that's assuming Bethea's injury isn't serious), they'll be as close to 100% as they'll be able to get this season.
Final thought: The Colts can clinch their division and the #2 seed next week with a win and PIT loss/JAX win, making the last two games of the season most likely meaningless (assuming NE doesn't somehow implode and lose 3 in a row). The Colts' last two games are both divisional games. How crazy is it that, in what most people consider the toughest division in the league, a division that could produce 2-3 playoff teams, the Colts could take 2 division games off (a full 1/3 of their divisional games) and still win the division and a 1st round bye? I don't care what anyone else says: this season is still Colts/Pats and everyone else. If one of those two teams doesn't win the SB, it will be a monumental upset.

78
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:32pm

You can most definitely have an onside punt after a safety. The play Winslow was injured on a few years ago (when he broke his leg and missed most of his rookie year) was an onside following a safety against Dallas, which Cleveland recovered.

79
by iowapatsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:35pm

Welker vs Gaffney isn't really a true comparison...

Welker is used primarily as our running game, thus a lot of 5, 6, 7 yard catches. That has to hurt his DVOA and DPAR/pass attempt.

80
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:39pm

Re: 65

My point really wasn't that Romo played badly but that minus a very lucky play on the fumble, he doesn't 'heroicly' lead them to victory.

My own impression was that Romo had an average game. Detroit was giving them the short stuff (25 completions to Witten and Barber!) and they took advantage. He did take three sacks.

81
by perplexed (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:39pm

Titans are incredibly dirty. They cheap-shotted the hell out of the Panthers and got away with just about all of it. It's amazing how some teams get away with so much and then they call ticky tacky fouls on other teams. The inconsistency boggles the mind.

Carr came into the game with a sore back. After Carr released a throw, a Titan looked up, saw the ball was gone, lowered his head, took a step and launched himself into Carr's back, spearing him in what is clearly an intent to injure.

No call.

The idiot officials decided that they would start penalizing both teams to try to control the situation. So Peppers, one of the nicest guys in football, is given two bogus 15 yard penalties during the game.

My question is, when the Titans consistently week in week out take cheap shots and play dirty football, why is it a complete surprise to the officials? Do they not study the teams the week before so they know what to look for?

82
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:39pm

Re #58/68
I missed that action by Scaife when I saw the play live. Yes, he should have been flagged for it, as Phillips should have been flagged for his horse-collar.

I'm amused by the play in the video immediately before the Brown TD, the Harper INT. Hardwick hits Harper while he's on the ground after being tackled, out of bounds. Naturally, he wasn't flagged for it.

Also from the highlight video, it's absolutely clear the Titan defender who hit Rivers was blocked into him. The video picks up right after the block in the back, but the blame for that hit goes entirely on the Chargers O-line., and I guess Rivers for not getting out of the way.

I also feel compelled to point out that on the game-tying Gates TD, a Charger O-lineman dives as Haynesworth's legs as he's engaged by another lineman. I have a tough time reading that as anything other than intent to injure.

I said this last week, but it's worth repeating that I have NO idea what is or isn't holding right now.

83
by RickKilling (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:40pm

What, no review of the Williams' scoring machine vs the 49ers?

84
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:41pm

By the way, will SOMEONE tell game announcers and commentators that Romo is not a "young QB". The guy is 27. He's older than Big Ben. He's older than Eli. He's barely younger than Carson Palmer. He's older than Michael Vick for cryin' out loud.

His "QB age" is young. Chronogically, he's not young.

Spread the word.

85
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:47pm

#3 and #10: I have the same issue with the ads. I simply hit Refresh (F5) to get around it. (Of course, that also means I'm hitting the server an extra time.)

#45 I don't know how to say this without the thread degenerating, but as a Colts fan, for me, there are a lot of non-logical reasons to root against the Patriots. Or to put it another way, my 2nd-favorite team is the Browns, and I was still rooting for Pittsburgh last night. Now, this doesn't mean that I can't admire and appreciate how good, and historically special, this year's New England team is.

On the Phillips horse-collar non-call, my theory is that they let it go to punish the Titans' RB for slowing down to celebrate. :)

86
by Athelas (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:50pm

Quotes from cd6 this past week:

I’m willing to guarantee a win over the patriots. We’re going to destroy them so completely that Goodell will be forced to contract them out of the league to prevent further humiliation to the NFL, as the patriot players will be so emotionally devastated from their 350 point loss at the hands of the mighty steelers that tom brady and pals will forget how to play football without wetting their pants.

HERE WE GO STEELERS HERE WE GO

:: cd6 via blackberry, from india — 12/6/2007 @ 7:14 am

The real question is, how soon after the steelers’ victory will stenson stop printing those atrocious tom brady cologne ads? Answer: not soon enough.

:: cd6 via blackberry, from india — 12/7/2007 @ 1:55 am

- God I hate the Patriots. And Bruce Arians. And Phil Simms. Really, that's the takeaway from this post. (posted on the Open Discussion board after end of game)

This is what I love about the NFL--passionate fans! Next week it may all turn around, you just never know.

87
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:55pm

Various comments on the comments:

#4 Even with the salary cap implications, I’d rather take a once in a generational player like McFadden over a boat load of late first and second round picks.

Isn't he of the same generation as Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson? Exactly how many "once in a generation" players are allowed in a generation? "Once in a generation player" has quickly become the worthy successor to "shutdown corner".

Isn't comparing Welker and Gaffney rather like comparing Maroney and Faulk? They play different positions in the offense.

I think the delay of game spike penalty isn't called if the clock is stopped. At least it seems that way.

By staying on track for a perfect season, there will be more pressure for the Patriots to play their starters the entire season, rather than resting them up for the playoffs, which should work to the Colts’ advantage should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

That's not going to happen. With a bye, Belichick isn't going to have his starters not play for two or three weeks.

88
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:56pm

Can a Dolphins fan tell me if they've already given up on Beck? Pulled after two passes? Wow.

Not sure how they could possibly start Beck again after this display of no confidence.

89
by billsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:07pm

I'm still amazed at TJ Duckett and Najeh Davenport not being used in goal-line situations yesterday.

90
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:08pm

Why the Colts won't have an advantage playing in NE ---

The Pats will have played several cold weather games in a row leading up to the AFCCG. The only road game they have is at NYG - so every game, including Philly and Baltimore - will be cold weather games.

The Colts end their season at Oakland, home, home, and then home in their first playoff game. Their first taste of cold would come in the AFCCG (if both these teams make it to that point).

Let's also not forget that the Colts aren't exactly built for the cold either. Their running game is better than the Pats', but wasn't it better than the Pats' during the Antowain Smith days of yesteryear?

91
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:08pm

Before the draft I decided that if any team drafted Beck that it would be a very good sign that team was headed towards some really bad years. My reasoning was that it would suggest a basic stupidity with regard to evaluating talent that would likely replicate in other personnel decisions (Welker, Ginn).

By 26 I would venture most good NFL QB's had already established themselves league and had a couple, if not a few, good years under their belt. If you are 26 and still in college football than what are the odds you will ever be any good in the NFL?

92
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:11pm

By staying on track for a perfect season, there will be more pressure for the Patriots to play their starters the entire season, rather than resting them up for the playoffs, which should work to the Colts’ advantage should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

That’s not going to happen. With a bye, Belichick isn’t going to have his starters not play for two or three weeks.
I think that, if we've learned anything from this season, it's that Belichick does what he feels give his team the best chance to win. Take starters out, leave them in, run, pass, kick field goals, play field-position punting, go for it on fourth, whatever.

Having said that, past season have show that he *will* play the starters in late-season, otherwise-meaningless games (San Francisco in 2004), but will also take them out early if they need the rest more than the work (Miami in 2005). Since they have the bye week to rest, I expect the starters to play more than most pundits would think.

93
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:13pm

"By 26 I would venture most good NFL QB’s had already established themselves league and had a couple, if not a few, good years under their belt. If you are 26 and still in college football than what are the odds you will ever be any good in the NFL?"

I don't disagree with that. When looking at Beck, I was reminded of the Alex Smith conundrum. Its been mentioned that Smith may just be "a year behind" in his projection because he so much younger than anyone who ever played the position. My thought is that Beck may be a year ahead, and not develop any.

Some of the development is getting better at the game. Some of it is physically becoming an adult, and the muscle structure changes that happen in your early 20s.

94
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:15pm

I'm a little sad that the Dawkins TD saving tackle was mentioned by Peter King and not by FO.
At the time, that may have been the most awesome tackle ever...I know this site uses statistical analysis, but I'd like to see a physics analysis of what Dawkins did.
And then after all that, it was rendered inconsequential because of the final score.

95
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:17pm

Re Ben Riley:

"Here’s a question for someone with a rulebook. I know teams can elect to punt in lieu of a kickoff (as Baltimore just punted after the safety, presumably because of the rain)."

Just to clear something up, the Ravens did not "elect" to punt the safety kick. By rule, when a team suffers a safety, they *must* punt the ball from their 20, rather than kick off from their 30. The Ravens didn't choose to punt because of the rain or any such reason. They had to by rule.

96
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:20pm

"If anything, the Colts should send the Pats a gift basket for taking Rolle and McAllister out of the game. Me-thinks those 2 deep bombs to Gonzalez probably aren’t there if Rolle and McAllister aren’t injured. I didn’t find the rest of the defense to be particularly deflated, just bizarrely focused on stopping the run. Almost every run play ended in 2-yards and a pile of purple. Did they really think the Colts wouldn’t go after those back-up corners like a fat-kid in a candy store?"

There were a few guys who played hard (Greg stood out), but I just didn't see the same intensity at all. They certainly look discumbobulated in pass defense at times and didn't look like they had prepared nearly as well. I am also of the opinion that Rolle and McAllister probably aren't any more hurt than they were last week. They just wanted to play against NE. Pure speculation on my part, but what the hell.

I also had no issue whatsoever with the deep passing to Gonzalez. He is young, needs to get worked in the offense, needs to be proven as a true threat by the playoffs and was completely open. No issues whatsoever.

And Purds, I let you decide. ;)

97
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:22pm

The Ravens didn’t choose to punt because of the rain or any such reason. They had to by rule.
not quite. They had to free kick by rule. The rules are different for a free kick. (Ex. the kicking team can recover, but no kicking tee is allowed, which makes using the punter for the free kick most teams' preferred option.)

98
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:22pm

And to further the discussion about the legality of "onside punting", I assume a team could try if they wanted to, but since the ball never touches the ground, the opposition would be well within their rights to call for a fair catch, thus any attempt to get the ball by the kicking team would be called interference with an attempt at a fair catch, i.e. legal or not, it's probably not a very good idea.

99
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:24pm

92:
Ah, thanks for the clarification.

100
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:25pm

#69 - But you're making my point for me.
Browns win - 2 games remain against teams who might end up with double digit losses. The Titans will not only have to beat two poor teams (KC and NYJ) and a top 3 team on the road but have to hope the Browns would have to lose against Cincy since they'd win the tie breaker if they only lost against SF.
Bills win - Obviously what the Titans want but even then they have to run the table and hope they get the tiebreakers.

101
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:29pm

I'm pretty sure that even if I weren't a Packer fan I'd still hate Tony Romo. Man, is he annoying, with the backwards cap and the goofy look on his face. Take away that mammoth line and all the weapons and he's an ordinary QB with ugly mechanics. I know this isn't exactly reasoned analysis, but I don't care. Just had to be said.

102
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:31pm

FAO Tim Gerheim - are you aware that there are certain programmes of questionable legality which allow people to watch TV channels from other countries?

103
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:34pm

#89... No one mentioned Jeff Feagles giving the textbook example of a coffin corner kick to Brian Westbrook prior to the Eagles final drive.

At this point, I could see the Giants offering him a new 1 year deal each season until he's 75 years-old.

104
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:36pm

". Take away that mammoth line and all the weapons and he’s an ordinary QB with ugly mechanics"

You mean that Mammoth Line that was probably the worst in football last year, right?

105
by Lance (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:38pm

#96-- I always felt that way about Steve Young.

106
by Lance (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:39pm

OK, not 96, 101. How I made that error is unclear

107
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:41pm

Aaron, it's hard to say whether or not McHugh's been that good from the fullback position: the vast majority of Lions snaps seem to be 1-4-0, 1-3-1, or the occasional 0-5-0 when Jones motions to WR. They'll do some 2-3-0 or 2-2-1, but in the past, Jon Bradley was the FB.

I don't know why the Lions didn't go for it on fourth down from the 2. This team, more than most, doesn't need field goals. That part's much easier for them. Maybe Martz saw the Grand Valley State game this weekend and got nervous.

I hate football.

108
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:41pm

96:
There are certainly deficiencies to his game, no doubt, but at this point, you're kidding yourself if you don't think Tony Romo is among the top QBs in the league. The Dallas line is good, but not fantastic.

109
by cd6! (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:42pm

MJK- "I would think Colts fans would have been rooting FOR the Patriots yesterday. "

Are you serious? Nobody with a soul, who isn't a Pats fan, should be rooting for the patriots. End of story.

82-

What can I say? When I said "this week" I obviously meant "in the playoffs, this week is just practice." Seriously though, fire Bruce Arians. That little Hines Ward handoff on the one still has me angry. And if we win by 60 every game the rest of the year, I'll still want Arians fired. And Phil Simms.

Ugh what a lousy game. We need o line help and healthy safeties ASAP.

110
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:43pm

Ok, not 96, make that 101. Not sure how all the numbers got shifted down some all of a sudden.

110
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:43pm

Rich:

While Romo's ability to move had made a difference it's also apparent the Leonard Davis playing inside has worked well and Marc Colombo is playing WAY better than I ever saw him play in Chicago. As in several levels.

Could be that a new coaching staff has helped the situation. But then I didn't check to see if Dallas has a new O-line coach or not.....

112
by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:46pm

"I can’t believe anyone seriously thinks Jabar Gaffney is remotely comparable to Wes Welker.
If you think that Jabar Gaffney can even dream of being that good, I think you should pause and think about how absurd that sounds."

Only someone who looks at the stats and doesnt watch the game would suggest that Gaffney is as good as Welker. Its just not even an argument.

Welker DOES EVERYTHING for the Pats. He returns punts and kicks, just ask the Eagles how important that is. He is a ferocious downfield blocker, just watch when they run the little bubble screens (audible: Omaha, thanks NBC). He catches EVERYTHING and is has moved the chains 54 times!
He knows the offence as well as Brady and is always in the right spot at the right time. Gaffney has benefited because he is Belichecks flavor of the month. Another Welker Bonus is that they dont need to waste a roster spot on a "return specialist". Dont kid yourself, in the NFL this is a huge bonus being able to rely on a skill player to do this.

"Is Welker Worth a 2nd round and a 7th round Pick?" Lets assume in the last 3 games Welker gets 15 catches, 2 tds and 200 yards,(pretty reasonable assumption)

He would end up with 108 Receptions, 1124 yards and 10 TDs. Oh yeah and he is 26 years old.

Is that worth a second round pick? Yeah I think so.

113
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:49pm

Dawkins play reminded me of a LeRoy Butler play in 1997 when Butler, playing hurt, chased down Robert Smith of the Vikings to keep MN out of the end zone. Smith was one of the fastest backs around and had a serious head start but Butler had a bit of an angle and somehow willed himself to be able to just clip Smith's foot and bring him down.

Amazing plays by amazing players.

114
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:50pm

I have no idea how the Eagles look so good at some points and so bad at others.

Which games have they looked good in? The Detroit game? When the wide receivers had over 250+ yards combined? Or the Patriots game, when the wide receivers also had roughly 250 yards combined?

Go back through the games, and you'll see the pattern. If a team knows, and can deal, with the Eagles wide receivers, the team just flatlines. McNabb can't find anyone to throw to, even when he buys himself some time - there's just no one getting open enough for McNabb to feel safe throwing the ball to.

They clearly need a larger receiver who can handle being pressed. Period.

I’ve watched the roster talent slowly slip since the Super Bowl year, all the while straining my eyes to see if Omar Gaither could be as good as the young Trotter or if Brian Dawkins could turn back the clock. Now I miss Cory Simon and Chad Lewis, Duce Staley and nickel backs like Al Harris and Rod Hood. I miss young Dawkins and young McNabb, young Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I don’t want to rebuild, but I don’t want to watch this team, this system, keep slipping.

Dawkins and McNabb aren't the problem. McNabb's still an above-average QB, and Dawkins is still an above-average safety. The problem is the recent drafts have been atrocious. This year's is the worst, with 3 guys already cut and the other two are probably washouts (Celek and Hunt).

This year's draft class as a whole was just abysmal, which is why I have no idea why the Eagles didn't try to consolidate picks as much as possible - instead they got a bunch of training camp fodder, and in two-three years, Kolb will probably be the only one on the team.

The reason the talent level looks like it's slipping is because, in the draft, it is. Nearly half of the starters are draft acquisitions from 2004+ at this point, and the only great pick among that entire set is Shawn Andrews. I'd say Bunkley and Patterson are above average, and everyone else is average (in Cole's case, that's not a bad thing, as average DEs are hard to find).

115
by Dr. Got a Latin Degree and Stuff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:51pm

Argh. “THEIR�. Not “THERE�.

While you're at it, "ad nauseam", not "ad nauseum".

116
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:54pm

Pat:

A large receiver who can handle being pressed? Hmmmm, I thought Philly had one at one time but....

Sorry. Had to swing at that softball.

117
by louis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:55pm

#27:

Just one week off on my flea-flicker prediction, dammit! I knew that NE had something in the works for these defenses.

If it makes you feel any better, Gaffney revealed after the game that the play had originally been drawn up for the Ravens.

Pitt really didn’t bite that hard on Maroney’s playaction on the long Moss TD... the safeties just let Moss go right by them.

Perhaps because they were biting on the fake? :)

Was it me, or was NE in nickle for most of the second half? Is that how they are going to keep the LBs fresh because they really don’t seem to be using anyone but the big 4?

Well, they have their Rodney Harrison: SS/LB thing going this season. Maybe they had it drawn up expecting to see a lot more of Miller?

Agreed that Brady was not throwing very well in the first half. Then again, we sort of have high standards for him at this point...

118
by Richard Arpin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:55pm

1.
I'm not sure what to make of the Gaffney and Welker comparison. It's obvious that they are used differently; Welker more underneath, Gaffney more vertically. I don't think stats can explain that.
I really disagree with the idea though that most receivers could do what Welker does. The reason why Belichek gave up a second rounder and then to speed up the process an ADDITIONAL seventh rounder was because Welker is special. He said that everytime they faced Miami the only player they consistently had to double team was Welker because he could break so many tackles because he was so shifty. Welker can also be a kicker in special circumstances as well, he kicked all game in one of the games where Miami didn't have a kicker against NE. I'm waiting for a drop kick like Fluties on a lateral, maybe in a 4 and 8 from the oppositions 12 or something.
What really separates Welker from other receivers is two things (to take madden ratings), agility and awareness. Every game I see highlights from Welker that other receivers don't make. He broke the ankles of the corner in the SD game, he lateraled to Moss for another ten yards in the Buffalo game, and in the Dallas game he kept his momentum and yet slowed down through soft spots in their zone. He is also fantastic on screens as he can read his blocks well. Beyond all this Welker is a good blocker, He totally leveled Fletcher in the Redskins game on the first Series. Welker is one of those multidimensional players Belichek loves. That's why they signed him to a multi-year deal and not Moss.
I personally don't see Gaffney having all these attributes. While Gaffney is good, good enough to be on the Patriots with their high standard personel dept, He couldn't do what Welker does.

2.
I read that the patriots make up a scouting report for every player every time they play against them. So they are making ~50 reports a week. This is how they deem people like Morris and Welker worth going after. They also are a role player team, every person has their particular role, and then they are decent at something else as well (except for Brady, he just throws, although he's blocked a couple times this season). Can someone else tell me if this is common for most teams or is this unusual? If this is unusual, how do most teams run their scouting? For that matter, who makes personal decisions in a place like Miami, the GM or coach, shouldn't they have the same vision of how to mold their team?

3.
Is is just me or do the Pats run this one play all the time? Brady shotgun, 1 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB all to one side - 2 WR split out to the other side. I have no idea what the first group does, but the 2 WR's do this; the slot (Welker) runs a flat square out, and the flanker (Moss) runs a medium depth slant. I see it all the time in 3rd down, goal line, 1st down. They then change it up, sometime Moss just runs a curl, sometimes it's a jump ball halfway through the slant. Sometimes Welker runs the square out, sometimes he runs the square out cut off short to the hole in the zone. The timing on this play has become just ridiculous, it's almost automatic. The defense obviously knows it's coming, how are they supposed to stop this? If they double team either, Brady goes to the other, and if they double team both they are exposed on the other side? It's really a simple play, but the execution makes it work. Just wondering what other people are thinking about this.

Not trying to be a homer, I usually watch the Pat's and frankly, the rest of the league is kinda disappointing quality wise. It looks like McDaniels is now just doing crazy things to see if things would actually work

Oh, and if I seem slow, I'm from Canada, Eh! (NFL still blows away the CFL, no matter what my friends here say)

119
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:56pm

Well, I think Bledsoe's lack of mobility was part of the problem last year until Romo took over. This year they added Leonard Davis, and I think they're healthier. Not trying to start a flamewar; I just find Romo extremely annoying both on and off the field, and if the Cowboys make the Super Bowl, half of America (the half that watch American Idol) will undoubtedly come to love him, while the rest of us will despise him.

120
by V4Velvetta (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:56pm

That wacky Gaffney vs. Welker comparison reminds me of a night sitting around with a bunch of buddies drinking and one of them staggers off to the can shouting, "You're damned right I'd take Frances MacDormand over Selma Hayek. Same tools, only she doesn't eat as much."

121
by louis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 5:57pm

One more thing: Anthony Smith should’ve been flagged on the cheap shot he laid on Donte’ Stallworth on the overthrow in the end zone.

Bah, that was really all on Stallworth for somehow keeping his feet. When flopportunity knocks, you answer the call!

122
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:05pm

Doc:

Good Lord, my proofreading is horrible today. I know better.

Still light-headed from GB's win I suppose. Or I am careless. Likely the latter.......

123
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:06pm

91: Didn't Beck go on a lengthy Mormon mission? I have no opinion as to how good he is, but I wouldn't take his age alone as a sign of suckitude just yet. (See #84, for example.)

Athelas, I'm sorry, but I've only begun paying any level of attention to the Raiders this year, as I just moved here and they're tolerable (as compared to watching the 49ers, who make me want to carve my eyes out with a spoon). I would venture to guess that Kiffin's purported obsession with age (not having players older than him) may have played a role in any changes in the Raiders run D, but that's just a guess.

And re: Welker. The guy (until recently, I haven't checked the updated stats) had something like a 79% catch rate, even though his job is often to go over the middle 5-7 yards deep and get killed by a linebacker or a safety. A second-round pick sounds just fine, thanks.

I get that part of Welker's success is the system - but, part of the reason he's NOT always the guy who goes deep (like Moss, Stallworth or even Gaffney on occasion) is the system as well.

124
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:08pm

Bah, that was really all on Stallworth for somehow keeping his feet.
Uh? Are receivers supposed to all flop to the ground when the ball is well out of bounds? It was a cheap shot, but a good sign for the Pats - Smith was already losing it, and the game was still open.

By the way, Brady was interviewed this morning on WEEI and said that while he was stretching before the game, Smith was there at midfield yelling at him. That explains the two words Brady felt compelled to put in with him after the Moss TD.

125
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:08pm

"r. Not trying to start a flamewar; I just find Romo extremely annoying both on and off the field, "

I don't disagree. I want to punch the guy every time hes on TV. He's like the dumb kid who everyone seems to love for no good reason.

I think hes a good QB though.

126
by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:10pm

#113: Go back through the games, and you’ll see the pattern. If a team knows, and can deal, with the Eagles wide receivers, the team just flatlines. McNabb can’t find anyone to throw to, even when he buys himself some time - there’s just no one getting open enough for McNabb to feel safe throwing the ball to.

The scary part for Eagles fans is that yesterday, the Giants for the most part were able to shut down the Eagles' WRs, with a defensive backfield that (in nickel) consisted of three rookies (Ross(1st), Johnson(7th), Dahl(undrafted)), one 2nd-year undrafted player (Dockery), and one old man (Madison).

On the other side of the ball, Philly was throwing everything at the line of scrimmage all game long. This really hurt the Giants run-game, because the LBers and safeties were able to shoot the gaps before the pulling guards and/or lead blockers were able to get into position. But it also left Sheppard & Brown alone on the outside, and when they didn't get to Eli, Burress or Toomer were usually open. For whatever reason (are they hurt?) those corners were not playing as well as I've seen them play in the past.

127
by Richard Arpin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:10pm

I just re-read my post, I'm not saying moss isn't a quality talent. The comment that Welker and Moss and their contracts relating to talent is just absurd. I was trying to illustrated that Welker was Belichek's target, Moss, well, he was an experiment. Belichek really loves having Welker in his offense.

128
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:11pm

Even with the salary cap implications, I’d rather take a once in a generational player like McFadden over a boat load of late first and second round picks.

Let me make this clear, in the hopes that eventually people will notice it. With the exception of quarterback, there are no serious salary-cap ramifications for first-round picks at all. Quarterback is the exception since unless you're Ken Whisenhunt, you realistically can't play two quarterbacks at the same time.

Mario Williams costs his team $3M in cap space this year. That's it. He'll jump quite a bit in the next two years, but by that point he's cuttable if he's not worth it, so it's not a big deal, and if he's above average, they should just extend him and then his cost will match up with an above-average DE in any case.

The whole "You Should Draft At The Top Of The Second Round" article was seriously, seriously flawed, because they forgot that teams have roster limitations. If pick 5 produces $2.5M of "on-the-field value", and costs $2.5M, it doesn't matter that picks 36 and 42 combined together would produce $2.5M of "on-the-field value" costing $1.5M if you can't fit 36 and 42 on the roster, or if you've only got one space at that position (i.e. QB).

129
by ammek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:14pm

88: Not a Dolphins fan but an appreciator of burlesque comedy and thus able to comment.

Beck shouldn't be on the field. No rookie can expect to learn anything on that offense with an invisible line and no receivers. The Fins aren't finding out anything about their supposed qb of the future, they're just exposing him to nerve-destroying pressure. Safer to bench him, hope Lemon can squeeze out a win, save Cameron's job.

The stats only showed two passes yesterday but Beck in fact was behind center on six pass plays. Two throws (one complete), three sacks (including a fumble) and a panic-stricken scramble which ended with him dropping the ball.

The guy is playing scared. He has no pocket awareness anyway, but in addition he's trying to turn every play into a highlight-reel, game-changing moment. He needs to be sat down and tutored.

Of course he's not the only problem. Within about eight minutes of the first quarter yesterday, Buffalo led 21-0, Miami had given up three fumbles (it finished with eight) and three sacks, and had its first punt of the game returned for a td (nullified by a flag).

By the way the Bills special teams were awesome and Brian Moorman is a genius. Of his first four punts, three landed inside the 20, and only one was returned, for minus four yards (it was fumbled).

130
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:15pm

Tony Romo is playing well but as someone with a bit of familiarity with a qb who can be loose with the football those lucky bounces can come back to bite you at the worst possible time. With each forced fumble recovered by Dallas, with each ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE interception resulting in a completion for Dallas, I sense more and more that at some point it all goes KAPLOOEY.

I know this will read as wishful thinking. But having followed Number 4’s career the similarities are at minimum startling and at worst, for Dallas fans, frightening.

Cause let me tell ya’, when it goes bad. Well, it goes BAD……….

BadgerT, I am sick to death of your constant Favre-bashing. The man's having a career season that no one expected, and instead of letting everyone enjoy it, you remind us of his occasional propensity for miscues. Why don't you and Dr. Z and the rest of the haters just watch someone else and leave #4 alone.

131
by mp (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:15pm

Athelas --

To "take the piss" out of someone is to insult or ridicule him, usually in a teasing (non-hostile) way. It's British slang. It may have been Cockney rhyming slang originally, I'm not sure.

132
by AHBM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:16pm

Regarding the issue of safety kicks, the rules are somewhat weird. I'm working off of memory here, but from what I recall a safety kick is a free kick like a kickoff, but the kicker is not permitted to set up a place kick for it (and of course it starts from a different yard line). Regular kickoffs can be from a tee, held by a holder, or maybe drop kicked (I forget whether the drop kick is allowed but I have a feeling that it is), while safety kicks can be drop kicked or punted. Since nobody drop kicks in the NFL except as a showpiece about once every five years, it's essentially just a punt without the dead ball rules.

About the Steelers game, yeah, just ugh. After it was over I immersed myself in Orange Box games to numb the shame and humiliation -- I probably could have used some rhubarb pie at that point. As much as the
Patriots and the bulk of their fans get on my nerves (Aaron doesn't count, he's cool about it; it's the wasteland of Boston area radio that makes me want to commit acts of savagery), I give them credit for being the best team over the last few years for making halftime adjustments. If a coach never again said before a game that his team was going to play "60 minutes of football" that would be a great start. Your team is going to play 30 minutes of the game you planned for, and 30 minutes of the game the other team is bringing, or your team will get beat by any team worth its salt who does.

133
by dbldown (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:17pm

Some thoughts on the Chargers offense:

1) While Chris Chambers isn't a great WR, he's the best one the Chargers have right now (besides Gates who acts more like a WR than a TE). Vincent Jackson has hands of stone and continues to try to catch everything with his body instead of extending his arms to catch with his hands. Busther Davis has shown flashes but hasn't been consistent.

All in all, the Chambers acquisition has worked out well for the Chargers just because their WR corps was that bad.

2) Phillip Rivers has had a rough season, however this is more a product of the Offensive line's regression than Rivers' play. When given time in the pocket Rivers makes good decisions and accurate throws, when hurried he often makes mistakes and rarely makes completions. Last year the Chargers O line did a spectacular job of giving Rivers time and it showed in his play. This year the O line has played much worse and Rivers is being affected more than anyone. Yesterday when Rivers was pressured (the first 3 quarters of the game) the Chargers scored 3 points. In the 4th quarter the Titans pass rushers weren't as explosive and Rivers was given some time in the pocket, that's when the Chargers were able to move the offense and score. Given time he can be a great pocket passer, but once he has to move his feet bad things happen.

134
by Pat on the back (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:18pm

I refuse to read 108 comments to see if anyone mentioned this, but you cannot onside punt after a safety. You are only allowed to recover an onside kick because it is considered a live ball off of the kick. On a punt or a free kick, the ball is "dead" as far as the kicking team is concerned, so a recovery can only occur if it hits a receiving team (i.e. he fumbles the ball). That is why you don't get to use a tee, because the ball is effectively "in play" before the kick, but dead to the kicking team. If that makes sense.

135
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:22pm

Tom:

Dude, not even close. As I wrote, Zimmerman (and others) declared Favre "washed up". As in no longer able to play at the professional level. As evidenced by the stats of this very website, Favre was average in his seemingly absymal seasons and this season is one of the better qbs in the league.

Which is wildly different than mere criticism. Which was and remains justified.

136
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:24pm

A large receiver who can handle being pressed? Hmmmm, I thought Philly had one at one time but…

Yeah, I thought Dallas had one too, until yesterday. I might've seen brief glimpses of him, though.

Still wouldn't take back Owens. He's not worth the sideshow.

137
by anotherpatsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:25pm

Currently 66, CA said the following when purportedly weighing in on Gaffney/Welker:

Marvin Harrison is the archtypal case of a player who has inflated statistics that make him appear better than he is because he plays in a great offensive system with a great quarterback.

I am very proud of the Colt fans (Bobman, Yaguar, OMO, Purds etc.) for not jumping all over this silliness. Having observed this poster's previous efforts to get Pats fans to come to the Pats defense, he may be an equal opportunity troll.

This observation is as silly as Stan saying Brady is an average QB. Brady is of course really good in the context of today's NFL (although not as good as Manning, but we don't want Manning on our team, we want Brady), and he is making the most of his weapons this year.

As for Marvin, he is the real deal, and his hands and ability to make the phenomenal catch on the sidelines have been pretty frustrating to Pats fans over the years. Is it supposed to be insightful to say that being in a great offense with a great QB makes your stats better? It may have given him more TDs, but I am sure Manning has never had a guy he counted on to make the tough catch in the endzone more that Marvin, as he has never had another guy that could make some of those catches.

Gafney and Welker do two different things, and I don't know if Gafney could do Welker's thing better, and vice-versa.

138
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:26pm

Tom:

And as a follow up, check out my comments in the special "Cowboys-Packers" Audibles thread if you insist that I am incapable of criticizing Number 4 or that I refuse to accept others criticizing Favre.

And to me there is a WORLD of difference between criticizing a player's game performance and stating in a national publication (electronic or otherwise) that a player is no longer worthy of wearing the uniform.

And I think he (and others) should be called on it. Particularly "Dr. Z" proclaimed football expert.

Seems like a pretty big miss, no? That he was unable to discern the difference between an average player surrounded by horrible players and a guy who legitimately couldn't play.

That's Tom Jackson level. I expect more.

139
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:27pm

135.

He seems to be relatively quiet this year. Maybe the Philly media caused the side show, not TO.

140
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:27pm

Lost is this beautiful gem from Ron Pitts in the Jax/Car game, in reference to David Garrard’s quarterbacking style.

The way Garrard sits back there and throws reminds me of the way that Vince Evans or Doug Williams used to do it

What two wonderfully random QBs from NFL history to just pop into one’s head watching Garrard.

Boselli followed up with He just reminds me of a good quarterback. You could hear the incredulousness (if that’s not a word, I want full credit) in his voice.

Um, Pitts is black, right? That sort of throws a wrench into the most straightforward interpretation of a comment like that, which, when made by a white guy (particularly an older one), is usually thought to mean: "All black QBs look the same to me," or "I cannot see past the fact that this QB is black and actually analyze his quarterbacking style."

141
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:33pm

BadgerT, I generally find your posts to be well-reasoned and fairly objective, but you do have a bee in your bonnet about Favre, and the fact that you responded so angrily to my teasing just provides more evidence for said bee.

142
by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:37pm

So Dallas is 12-1 and from the comments on FO by non-fans, it's all because:

1. Bad calls by refs against opposing team (esp. GB, DET); and 2. Romo is lucky.

That's it right? No other reason why they might be 12 and 1?

Funny how these comments are made on a website that specializes in quant-based analysis of football performance and those numbers this year suggest that Dallas is having one of the best seasons in the last 12 years.

143
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:38pm

Tom:

Seriously, I am not upset. I honestly thought my posts were being misconstrued as to the distinction being made.

Anyone who wants to say after a game or series of games that Favre stinks have at it.

But when alleged experts declare a guy finished and it's clear that this is NOT the case, well, I think that needs to be called out.

So yes, on THAT topic I do have a "burr in my saddle".

Frankly, I am surprised Favre's legs have held up this season. I really thought by now he would have begun spraying the ball around the field due to a tired lower body unable to properly set and push on throws.

So far, so good.

144
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:41pm

Re: 131

So LT should be really ticked if an offensive lineman sits down next to him!

145
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:46pm

Badger, I remember that one, too. While we're on great touchdown saves, I am biased to mention Ben Watson catching Champ Bailey (using the angle) but does anyone remember when Rod (?) Jones, a Cincinnatti defensive back, caught Bo Jackson from behind? I was too young to remember if it was an amazing play...it's just that at that age, I was told by ESPN, Nike, and Tecmo Bowl that Bo Jackson was the fastest man ever...which I now know was not true.

OK sorry to ramble off-topic, back to regularly scheduled Romo bashing

146
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:48pm

louis #116,

"Perhaps because they were biting on the fake? :)"

Good catch on my poor writing.

It seems clear that they misplayed Moss because of the playfake, but nobody else in the front 7 - the guys closest to the LOS - didn't react towards Maroney at all. Even the DL's maintained their pass rushes. Yet, somehow the guys whose primary reason for being on the field is to stop big plays decide that Maroney is the biggest threat on that play instead of Moss?

Additionally, most of the reaction that Maroney's playfake's get is from the LBs in coverage. That is why most of the times when NE does playaction they pass it right down the middle of the field.

147
by Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:48pm

RE: Merrimans injury?

Did that occur on the play where he got absolutly blown up by the motioning TE? I don't think I've ever seen a hit that hard or loud in my life.

Extremely dissapointed that CBS didn't show it on replay. It was a thing of beauty.

Thank god for DVR

148
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:49pm

I watched one promising Lions drive fizzle out when McHugh dropped 3 out of 4 passes thrown to him. I don't know who was more responsible for the Lions having to take a field goal from a first-and-goal from inside the five - McHugh for refusing to catch footballs, or Kitna for continuing to throw him the ball. What am I missing? Did I catch him on a bad series?

149
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:51pm

140. "So Dallas is 12-1 and from the comments on FO by non-fans, it’s all because:

1. Bad calls by refs against opposing team (esp. GB, DET); and 2. Romo is lucky."

Could you point out where people on FO said that the cowboys are only winning for those reasons?

150
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:52pm

Also, I really just don't know how much to take from Eagles-Giants games. As I mentioned elsewhere, the games are never clean, they always involve players beating the crap out of each other, and there are at least two or three squabbles on the field every game.

The Eagles and Giants players just hate each other. (Which is different from the Cowboys, where the Eagles fans hate the Cowboys) The games are never played well, and I'm really getting to the point where I hate watching them.

It also didn't help that the Eagles-Giants game was officiated like crap.

151
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:53pm

Re: 138 "So Dallas is 12-1 and from the comments on FO by non-fans, it’s all because: 1. Bad calls by refs against opposing team (esp. GB, DET); and 2. Romo is lucky."

Don't be ridiculous. They also cheat. (funny sound effect)

The Cowboys are having a terrific year, enjoy it. Don't read more into critique here than is intended. There's certainly been nothing here that approaches the overstatement of your post.

152
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:54pm

The Globe's Mike Reiss's offensive participation analysis:

WR Randy Moss -- 53 of 57
WR Wes Welker -- 44 of 57
WR Jabar Gaffney -- 42 of 57
RB Kevin Faulk -- 39 of 57
WR Donte' Stallworth -- 32 of 57
TE Benjamin Watson -- 28 of 57
TE Kyle Brady -- 18 of 57
RB Laurence Maroney -- 18 of 57
RB/FB Heath Evans -- 7 of 57 (all 7 as FB)
WR Chad Jackson -- 1 of 57
TE/OL Ryan O'Callaghan -- 1 of 57
RB Kyle Eckel -- 0 of 57
LB/FB Junior Seau -- 0 of 57
LB/TE Mike Vrabel -- 0 of 57
WR Kelley Washington -- 0 of 57

(snaps include an offensive holding call on Kevin Faulk, and a defensive holding call drawn by Randy Moss)

ANALYSIS: Overall, the 57 snaps were the second fewest in a game this season, which was partially a result of the Patriots striking with the big play. The season low is 52, against the Dolphins, another game in which the big play was prevalent. ... After playing just eight snaps the week before, Jabar Gaffney was the No. 2 option at receiver, with his 42 snaps a season high as he played in two-wide packages. ... The only plays that Randy Moss came off the field were a first-quarter play in which the Patriots went to three tight ends and a fullback and rushed for 2 yards, and the final three snaps of the game. ... OL Ryan O'Callaghan played as a third tight end for the first time since Week 3. ... Chad Jackson's one snap at receiver came on the second to last play of the game.

153
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:54pm

I think Romo's value has been obvious from the moment he replaced Bledsoe, but then again I've never paid much attention to facial expressions, hat- wearing styles, body english, or other means that are often employed to evaluate quarterbacks.

154
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:55pm

Reiss's positional groupings analysis:

A look at the positional groupings utilized by the Patriots' offense in Sunday's win over the Steelers:

4 WR/1 RB -- 23 of 57 snaps
3 WR/1 TE/1 RB -- 22 of 57
1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 6 of 57
2 WR/2 TE/1 RB -- 5 of 57
3 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 1 of 57

(snaps include a holding penalty on RB Kevin Faulk and a defensive holding call drawn by Randy Moss)

ANALYSIS: Once again, the Patriots ran their majority of snaps with three and four receivers on the field, favoring a spread approach against the NFL's No. 1-rated pass defense. ... Randy Moss' 63-yard touchdown catch came out of the 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package. The Patriots utilized play-action, which was effective because the offense had run the ball well on the previous drive. ... Maroney's 10-yard run in the first quarter, in which he pushed the pile, came out of the power-based 1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB package. ... The lateral touchdown play came out of the 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB package.

155
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:56pm

And Reiss's "vs number of rushers" analysis:
Here is our breakdown of the Steelers pressure and what the Patriots did against it:

3-man rush
# 2 of 2 for 18 yards
# 3-yard TD pass to Wes Welker came against three-man pressure

4-man rush
# 6 of 10 for 59 yards
# 4-yard TD pass to Randy Moss came against four-man pressure

5-man rush
# 18 of 28 for 179 yards
# Add one play in which RB Kevin Faulk was called for holding
# Tom Brady scrambled for 4 yards against a five-man rush
# Randy Moss drew a defensive holding call against a five-man rush

EXTRA POINTS: The Patriots ran four quick receiver screens that made it difficult to determine how many players were rushing because the ball was out so quickly ... The team had a quick play-action pass in which the ball was out quickly and had the Steelers playing run, making it difficult to determine how many players were rushing. ... The lateral touchdown play is not included because the ball was out so quickly and defensive pursuit went to Randy Moss instead of Tom Brady.

156
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:35pm

148:
According to one of our esteemed commenters' logic, you must be an American Idol fan. :)

157
by mrh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:39pm

Re WR flopping

Yesterday, fed up by WRs constantly making the "throw a flag" signal after every incompletion:

Me: Why do NFL WRs whine after every play?
Wife: Maybe they've been watching too much soccer.

158
by STI (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:42pm

re 6--Only two penalties carry a loss of down: intentional grounding, and illegal forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage.

159
by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:45pm

Re 132: Not sure where you are getting this information from, but it is incorrect. You CAN in fact onside kick (or punt as it were) after a safety.

Also, the ball is not considered "in play", it is the kick\punt itself that puts the ball in play.

160
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:45pm

POTB@132
"I refuse to read 108 comments to see if anyone mentioned this, but you cannot onside punt after a safety. You are only allowed to recover an onside kick because it is considered a live ball off of the kick. On a punt or a free kick, the ball is “dead� as far as the kicking team is concerned, so a recovery can only occur if it hits a receiving team (i.e. he fumbles the ball). That is why you don’t get to use a tee, because the ball is effectively “in play� before the kick, but dead to the kicking team. If that makes sense.
You know you did have the option of not posting. Or, even better, actually look up what you are commenting on.

Your post is wrong, as mentioned in #31 and #32. Link again at the name.

Costa@98

True, but nothing prevents a punter from doing an onsides drop kick, or an onsides punt into the ground.

161
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:48pm

#136, these comments aren't only made regarding black qb's.

Whenever a quick, white WR comes around, he reminds us of Chrebet.

And it's not just football either.

Every time a Keith Van Horn comes out, he's the next Larry Bird.

I'm not sure why this is - and this is not the place to figure it out - but I thought it deserves mentioning.

162
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:49pm

That’s it right? No other reason why they might be 12 and 1?

Welcome to the world of the Patriots fan. Get used to it over the next few years.

163
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:53pm

Anyone know what teams records are the week after they play the Patriots?
4-8, including losses in 5 of the last 6.
Of the 4 wins:one beat the Jets in OT, one beat Miami, another was Dallas, who beats pretty much anyone else.
It may have something to do with strength of schedule, but I'd like to think of post-Patriots games as having 2 factors...1 is that everyone copies their strategy, and 2 is they are classic "letdown games". These teams get up and play their Superbowl in the Fall when they play the Pats and have nothing left for the next week...which is why you should be more impressed by a 13-0 record than you are.

164
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:53pm

Two fun things from Lovie Smith's press conference:

1) The Neckbeard is starting this week -- Chicago Bears, fueled by Jack Daniels.

2) Famous FO "Best Player Available" Babatunde Oshinowo has been activated from the Bears' practice squad.

165
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:55pm

A random note:

Now that Dungy is forced to use Gonzalez instead of Moorhead, the passing offense has been doing a lot better. This is not a coincidence. I live in fear that Moorhead will be re-signed. (Nobody else will want him, and Dungy seems to love the guy even though he sucks.)

166
by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 7:59pm

#15: The math has been corrected. Thanks.

167
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:00pm

Regarding kicks after safeties. Since it's clear punting is allowed, I should point out the quirk in the rule that says if you are penalized during the kick you have to kick-off rather than punt (for some odd reason).

This lead to the Redskins kicking off from their 5 yard line last year... since they originally sent the kickoff team out there, had an offsides penalty, then sent out the punter.

Not sure why the NFL does it, but it was discussed in the audibles thread.

168
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:08pm

#119 wins.

Does Salma Hayek really tie on the old feedbag?

169
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:14pm

Also, I thought Hansen's FG looked good. Although I'm not clear on the rule. If a FG passes directly over one of the uprights is it good or no good? Does it have to barely pass over an up-right?

170
by Diane (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:18pm

Click the link for the official NFL ruling on post-safety kicks

171
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:20pm

Get out! Orton is back in the saddle??!!

(Must control self---impolite to revel in other fan's misery---must restrain comments)

--slams hand in drawer to keep from typing rude remarks----

172
by Diane (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:25pm

Ref Jerry Markbreit answers the question we are asking:
"Can a team opting to punt after a safety recover the ball as they would an onside kick? It seems that it would be much easier to create a jump ball scenario by way of a punt compared to trying to recover an onside kick squibbed off the tee. --Bob Black, Minneapolis, Minn.

A free kick after safety, which can be punted, is considered a regular free kick that can be recovered by the kicking team after it has traveled 10 yards. It is seldom attempted because the kickoff line is the kicking team's 20-yard line and if the onside attempt via punt is unsuccessful, the receiving team would put the ball in play somewhere around their opponents' 30-yard line. In my 23 years in the National Football League, I saw one of these plays attempted by the Miami Dolphins, and they successfully recovered the kick."

173
by louis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:27pm

#123:

Uh? Are receivers supposed to all flop to the ground when the ball is well out of bounds?

I wasn't talking about drawing PI, I was talking about drawing a red card... er, I mean personal foul.

174
by anotherpatsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:28pm

165, Hansen FG clearly outside the post by at least a foot, even if said post extended to the roof.

Someone will have the rule, but I imagine that the posts are considered to extend to infinity, but the refs can't be asked to calculate whether it would glance in off the imaginary post. I think when they look up at those fgs going above the posts they can only call it good if it is inside the imaginary extension of the post.

175
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:32pm

Re: BadgerT1000 & Jennings (Post 41)
Jennings played very well last year in the beginning of the year, and then I think either he got hurt or fell off... but I was impressed of what I saw early, early last year. The difference this year is that Favre actually seems to trust throwing him the ball... I suppose his hands have also improved a bit... probably more experience at playing at the NFL level.

176
by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:35pm

The Chargers kick returner tried to make a cut and fell on his own, untouched. That is why when he got back up, he was tackled by the legs by the Titan defender. The play was still going… hence no late hit.

Not true. He slipped on the field, the kicker clearly then touched him, he hit the ground, the whistle blew, he stood up and got massively cut in the lower legs from behind with the ball flying out. If he wasn't ruled down it clearly was a fumble on the play. Even the announcer said "well they must have ruled the Titan player was out of control before the hit... blah blah blah" because it was way late. Apparently from the Chargers announcers post game last night they were not happy with the chippiness of the game and the way the refs allow both sides go.

177
by Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:36pm

The Eagles drafts have been mediocre of late, but it's too soon to declare Hunt and Celek to be busts. Rookies never play much for the Birds and as they don't run the ball enough, Hunt isn't going to have much to do sitting behind Westbrook and Buckhalter (and Buck should get the ball a lot more than he does). Celek showed promise in the preseason and Abriamiri is getting more reps at the expense of Kearse. I don't know what they've got planned for Bradley and didn't understand the pick in the first place (a move to the 3-4?). Where they really whiffed this year is in the secondary and that is killing them.

178
by BD (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:37pm

Re: Beck

I know I was one of probably 50 people watching the Bills-Dolphins, and I am a die-hard Bills fan, but I almost felt pity for Beck yesterday. He looked so cold and his expression could best be termed "impassive." I am also sure he must have been hearing the worst from Bills fans. And here this guy's career and dreams are probably going up in smoke as the freezing rain and snow began to fall. Why the producer/director chose to keep focusing on him, I'll never know. So I did feel a little sorry for him. But I got over it pretty quick.

Re: Welker/Gaffney

I think it's important to point out that Welker is a #3/slot receiver and Gaff is used in 4-receiver sets. Each gets better matchups than the top 2 receivers (usually). I'd bet Welker is among the best receivers in DPAR when compared to other #3 receivers in the DVOA era. I'm willing to accept an argument that he is essentially a #2 receiver playing a #3 position, though.

179
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 8:52pm

Re: Horsecollar Head Slam on TD Run
Fun play to watch... definitely a horsecollar. I don't think the head slam is common practice, but I do notice OL like to make sure players stay down with an extra shove when already on the ground... this one seemed on the worse end of the scale, but it looked worse than it was to me.

180
by vikinghooper (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:07pm

A word about the Vikings Niners game. The Niners pulled an amazing gameplan. Sell out to stop Adrian Peterson and see if this Tarvaris guy can beat you.

Jackson is now stepping up in the pocket, looking to his second receiver, and in general looking serviceable. The Vikings don't look like a threat in this year's playoffs, but seem to be improving in spite of their coach.

181
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:08pm

Ferg:

Jennings is a LOT stronger this season and better able to hold up to the pounding of a season. If this were baseball Jennings' new body would draw raised eyebrows.

His catch percentage on FO is good but he has actually dropped a number of balls this season. It's as if he traded a bit of reliability for an enhanced ability to separate.

Favre has trusted Jennings from Day 1.

182
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:12pm

171 -- Well, we already know Griese sucks, and the Bears aren't making the playoffs anyways. May as well spin the Wheel of Orton and get some entertainment value out of it. Bars better be ready with the Jack Daniels.

183
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:12pm

Just as remarkably, New England takes the ball over with a first- and-10 at its own one-yard line, and opens in the shotgun, putting Brady right in the middle of his own end zone. So now we know that they will truly use the shotgun anywhere. And this was when the death-by-a-thousand-flats-to-Wes-Welker began. (I just checked the play-by-play. The phrase “12-T.Brady pass short right to 83-W.Welker� appears five times in a row, all complete, for a total of 63 yards.)

Belichick explained the spread offense sequence starting from their own 1-yard line today on his radio show. They caught the Steelers in their base defense, meaning a total mismatch with a linebacker trying to cover Welker.

They hit the pass to Welker to get them away from the endzone and then went no huddle so the Steelers couldn't get out of their mismatch defensive group. The result? Brady hit Welker on five consecutive passes and they marched down the field chewing 7 minutes off the clock.

Pittsburgh probably should have called timeout because Welker was carving their linebacker coverage to pieces.

BTW, Belichick also said that the Steelers blitzed on 90% of the snaps.

184
by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:23pm

On Wes Welker:

You fellas need to put down your DVOA spreadsheets for a minute, step back, and look at the big picture:

a) Belichick, who I think most would agree is an average to above-average defensive coach, said that playing against Welker in Miami, the Pats could never cover the guy. I believe that, in and of itself, is an indication that Welker is a pretty good wide receiver.

b) Mosey on over to the NFL stat page. Wes Welker is currently #2 in the NFL in receptions, with 95 on the year, just 3 behind the league leader TJ Houshmanzadeh. Welker aslo has 974 yards receiving, 10th in the NFL. You guys are seriously trying to say that Jabar Gaffney would give you this kind of production?

Welker not worth a 2nd round pick? Huh? There isn't a coach in the NFL who wouldn't give up a 2nd round pick for 26 year old player with 95 catches, 974 yards, and 8 TDs through 12 games. If DVOA doesn't tell us that, then there is something wrong with using DVOA to evaluate individual players.

The better question is actually whether Miami trading Welker for a 2nd round pick was one dumbest moves ever. Why don't we check in on Ted Ginn, the slot receiver Miami spent a 1st round pick on to replace Welker. Let's see...here it is. 22 catches, 326 yards, 1 TD.

185
by Tim in Houston (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:29pm

Hey Aaron & Double V,

In response to Vince Young's "I don't know what to do" manner, that goes back to his sophmore year @ UT. Research the Austin American Statesman article archive for "Vince having trouble reading defenses". There was an article after the Oklahoma loss.

After struggling early in his sophmore year, he went to Mack Brown and Greg Davis (OC) and asked them if they could simplify the playbook because he was having trouble reading college defenses. They did. They put him in the shotgun, gave him a few checks that let him create if his 1st or 2nd options were not open. Thats when VY took off.

Now I have never received an NFL paycheck for evaluating and making personnel decisions, but it sure looks like those same problems are still there. In the NFL, those flaws WILL show up no matter how talented an athelete and/or leader he is made out to be.

186
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:29pm

119: "Not trying to start a flamewar; I just find Romo extremely annoying both on and off the field, and if the Cowboys make the Super Bowl, half of America (the half that watch American Idol) will undoubtedly come to love him, while the rest of us will despise him."

I have never watched American Idol and I'm a cowboys fan and I love Romo (obviously).

But that's besides the point. I think what you mean is that the half of America that will always hate popular athletes from popular teams out of principal will always hate him. I mean, there's absolutely no other reason to "despise" him. I call it the Derek Jeter syndrome (of which, when it comes to Jeter, I'm a big perpetrator).

187
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 9:33pm

185: But he just wins games!

Then again, so did Kyle Orton in 2005.

188
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 10:01pm

Didn't many of the FO guys incluiding Aaron Schatz pick the Eagles in the super bowl and the New York Giants to get the #1 pick in the draft next year? I remember Schatz saying the Giants might win 4 games...

It was poetic justice to see the Gmen virtually knock off the Iggles in their sweep. They will sweep the Deadskins next week and be 4-0 against those two division rivals even though the DVOA will still be out of wack.

189
by doktarr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 10:14pm

re: 184,

Comparing Ginn's numbers (in Miami's offense) to Welker's numbers (in New England's offense) is quite unfair to Ginn. Nevertheless, I agree with your overall point that Welker is great, and moreover is perfect for the role he is playing.

Between acquiring Culpepper and Green, drafting Beck and Ginn in stead of building the lines, and trading Welker, the Dolphins' decision-making has been incredibly bad in the last two years. The only decent decision they've made was trading Chambers. It's a shame that they appear headed for 0-16, because they're not really historically terrible, but there's plenty of blame to go around.

190
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 10:15pm

188. Setting aside your psychic abilities, how exactly is the DVOA "out of wack" right now?

191
by Tim in Houston (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 10:34pm

187: Not this year, he is 6 & 6 with 7 TD's & 16 INT's. Haynesworth missed 4 games and they lost all of them. Is he, VY or Fisher the real key?

192
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 10:48pm

OK, I'll admit I was being a bit silly, but equating Romo with Derek Jeter now is premature at best. Whether or not Derek Jeter is overrated by the media or whoever, it's pretty objectively clear that he is a Hall of Famer, whereas Tony Romo has at the age of 27 had one good year on the football field, and in that one year he's become a face of the league not because of how he plays but mostly because of how he looks. And that's. . . OK. But believe me, if Tony Romo played for the Green Bay Packers, I might appreciate what he brings to the team, but I'd find him just as annoying; and if Brett Favre played for Dallas, I'd still like him. Don't put me in whatever category of haters you seem to think I belong.

193
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 10:57pm

Re: 188, 190. There's a simple solution. Just take the DVOA down to the wack station and tell the attendant "fill 'er up."

194
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:35pm

150- Of Course the Eagles game was officiated like crap... Just like the other 7 games the Eagles lost, right?:)

195
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:37pm

Actually, Bob, I think Romo has become a face of the league mostly because he throws a lot of td passes, and very few interceptions, on a traditionally prominent team that has won a lot since he became a starter. My wife says David Carr is a nice looking fellow, but somehow he doesn't get much attention....

Chris, PFP 2007 had the Giants with a 14% chance of winning four or less, a 25% chance of winning nine or more, a 56% chance of winning at least seven, and a mean projection of seven.

196
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:39pm

Wes Welker/Jabar Gaffney? Stop all this talk about who is a slot, #2, #3, size, routes etc. It isn't worth typing.

I think that dumb announcer JC Pearman ( or maybe Soloman Wilcots) took over and posted that one. Maybe when Soloman stopped talking about how some mobile quarterbacks feet add another element to the offense.

197
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:42pm

195- But Tanier and the other guys ( Schatz) were talking about how the Giants were going to draft Jake Long #1, and Schatz said the Giants will start out 0-5 or 1-4.

It is hard to pin an exact number because these guys keep changing their predictions, and having " their picks" and "consensus picks". Like abandoning the Jags after Jack got rid of bubba gump, or Seattle after Tubbs got hurt.

Congrats on your Vikings drafting who Reggie Bush was supposed to be.

198
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:49pm

Re: #184

It wasn't really a trade. The Fins put the "second round pick" tender on Welker. The Pats were in the middle of putting together the standard poison pill contract that the Fins would be unable to match, when someone (Kraft?) decided to throw in the 7th and make it a sign-and-trade instead of poison pill offer. Less acrimony and didn't have to deal with Miami challenging the offer and hanging things up for a while.

Now, you can certainly argue the Fins should have given Welker the $1.8 mil tender instead of the $1.3 mil one, but once they put that $1.3mil tender on him and the Pats decided they wanted Welker, Miami was going to lose Welker no matter what.

199
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:51pm

Re: #184 again

95 catches, 974 yards, and 8 TDs through 12 games.

Welker doesn't have production like that if he stays in Miami. And Ginn would probably have production like that if he was healthy from day 1 and in NE.

200
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 11:59pm

No, Chris, Aaron's projections are published in a book each summer, and they don't change. Every single PFP 2007 says exactly the same thing.

Given I didn't have any input regarding the selection of Peterson, I cannot fathom what you are congratulating me for.

201
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:00am

Now, you can certainly argue the Fins should have given Welker the $1.8 mil tender instead of the $1.3 mil one, but once they put that $1.3mil tender on him and the Pats decided they wanted Welker, Miami was going to lose Welker no matter what.

Right. I understand how the deal went down. The Dolphins were still brain dead for not giving Welker the $1.8 million 1st round tender. It wasn't like the guy suddenly blossomed out of nowhere. He was the Fins' top receiver with 67 catches LAST year. Proven NFL production. I repeat: proven NFL production.

The Dolphins had the same game film the Pats had. Surely they could have seen that the Pats (Miami's top division rival) couldn't stop the guy without putting two DBs on him. Jesus...that's worth $1.8 million right there. I can't imagine there's a cap manager in the league who wouldn't pay $1.8 million for 67 catches from a slot receiver.

202
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:01am

No way in hell Ginn has 95 catches in any offense in his first year as a pro. In all reality, he will probably never catch 95 passes in any season for any team in his entire career.

What percentage of 1st round picks ever catch 95 passes through 13 weeks? How many rookies ever do that?

The most underrated aspect of playing WR is intelligence. Most coaches don't even want 1st year wideouts to play because running the wrong route could result in an easy INT for a defender. It isn't just about the mistakes though, reading defenses and getting your timing down can make a good receiver great ( Marvin Harrison). Not to mention route running etc. and Ginn was more known for his blazing speed in college than his route running.

Ginn couldn't wash Welkers jock right now and in all reality will probably never have 95 catches through 13 weeks.

203
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:03am

200- Aarons words are published in a book, but the guys also run the site you are posting on. Do you not believe that he said the Giants would start out 0-5 or 1-4. Did the guys never talk about "updating our database"?

They posted their personal picks, and then a consensus that averaged all their picks together so in essence they had 2 sets of picks.

204
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:07am

192. "Don’t put me in whatever category of haters you seem to think I belong."

Well, that was my point in the beginning, that you shouldn't lump all fans of Romo together.

Also, I wasn't equating how great they are, just the irrational dislike that any member of the New York Yankees will generate (Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, take your pick... they are all "good guys" that other people despise). Similarly, there will be people who hate Dallas Cowboys players because they play for the Dallas Cowboys. I don't quite understand why you hate Romo so much that you'd still dislike him if he played for another team (unless it's the hollywood starlet dating thing, which I'd understand... I'm a bit leery of his actions there as well).

In any case, my point was more about the lumping of Romo fans in a category as anything else. You can't be a Cowboy fan and not love the guy who has done nothing but say the right things and play great ball since he's been starting. And while I'd agree that there are some very annoying cowboy fans (like there are Laker fans and Yankee fans and Red Wing Fans), I don't know that everyone who is a cowboys fan is also the type that would watch reality show drivel.

205
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:08am

It's not just Ginn. It's the opportunity cost.

Welker was a 67 catch guy at Miami. So, even if Ginn were the greatest slot receiver in the history of the NFL, the incremental upside is maybe 30 catches a year, tops. And for that limited potential gain, you pay him first round money and pass on the opportunity to improve a horrible team at another position. I mean, it's not like a slot receiver is the magic potion for NFL success.

They had to know that the Pats would jump all over Welker. I knew it. It's not like Belichick had made a secret of his admiration for Welker's play.

206
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:10am

Re: #198:

Of course, in hindsight, now that we know NE was to get Moss and Stalworth, what type of poison provision could they have put in the contract to exclude Miami from keeping Welker but allow NE to get him? ("He'll be the shortest WR on the team. He'll get paid 50% of the highest paid WR, or else paid $50M") Wasn't the original poison pill that the guy who started this all was to be "the highest paid offensive lineman on the team"?

207
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:14am

Chris, given you previously imagined wholly fictitous comments which you believed predicted that Tavaris Jackson would be an excellent NFL qb, I'd prefer to see a cite for what you say Aaron predicted. All I know is that the most complete publication of Aaron's projections, based on the statistical methods he employs, occurs in PFP, and his projections for the Giants were as I described, not as you described.

208
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:14am

Re: #206

I believe one of the standard poison pills is that Team B writes an offer stating something like: "Player X's contract is fully-guaranteed if he is available to play more than 4 games in Team A's city."

209
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:23am

As you pointed out, the potential poison pill wasn't the issue in the Welker deal. The issue was that Miami stupidly put the $1.3 million 2nd round tender on the table instead of the $1.8 million first round tender.

Now, it's possible that the Pats would have made a 1st round offer to get Welker. We will never know. But, offering a second rounder was a no-brainer for proven NFL production of 67 catches in a season and a perfect fit for the Brady passing game.

210
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:23am

#209-

Yeah, wasn't the Burleson poison-pill one of the first? IIRC, the whole contract was guaranteed if he played at least 4 games in the state of Minnesota. I didn't know they'd become commonly used since then.

211
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:25am

Er, that should read 208. My bad.

212
by Brandon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:27am

I find the idea of Romo being an average QB, or a QB whose popularity is based on what he looks like absurd. Tony Romo is obviously very good, and perhaps lost on the media because of Brady's amazing season is the fact that Tony Romo has a very good chance to throw 40 touchdowns this year. Have we all forgoten about the Kurt Warner craze of years past? Or was it Kurt's good looks that made him a star as well, even if it was ever so brief?

People dislike Romo for the same reasons they dislike Tom Brady. Dislike for a team spawns dislike for its players, more or less, which is directed at its most successful players. Something tells me Bob would forgive him if he played for the Packers, despite what he says.

213
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:36am

So are you denying that Schatz said that the Giants will start out 0-5 or 1-4, or that the guys were saying they would be picking Jake Long #1? It wasn't in the PFP but it was on this site when they were doing the picks before the year.

A lot of people wanted to give Tavaras Jackson a chance, and I said that he is horrible and doesn't deserve one ( which has been correct). He threw 1 long play action pass on the 2nd offensive play against the Giants and has been throwing dump offs ever since and people talk about his "improved play". Don't be fooled, he is still one of the 5 worst starters in the league.

214
by Athelas (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:37am

Will, since you seem to be around right now, any comment on my post above at #67, point 4?

215
by sippican (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:40am

I found this comment interesting:

a) Belichick, who I think most would agree is an average to above-average defensive coach,

Can't stop laughing.

Average height and weight, maybe. He's the Prince of Farging Darkness for Defense.

216
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:45am

So is the dead horse known as Michael Vick finally beaten dead? I seem to remember getting bashed to hell for constantly bashing that dumb thug before he even was exposed.

Did Arthur Blank really just say that he might eat too much Friend chicken and Fries in his two years of Prison?

217
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:48am

Chris, there is nothing in my posts above which requires further explanation. As for Jackson, you claimed that people here asserted that Jackson would be a good NFL qb. Your claim was not accurate.

Athelas, the sample size of the possible phenomena you are asking about, Tomlin's stubborness, is so tiny that it is almost pointless to make generalizations. I suspect the overwhelming reason the Pats thumped the Vikings last year and the Steelers this year is because the Pats have much better personnel.

218
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:52am

Judging by their DVOA, I don't know that the Steelers, at least defensively, lose that much in personnel to the Pats. Although I wonder what the effect of the "Swamp Bowl" games have on the Steeler's Defensive DVOA.

219
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:01am

A pass defense which starts the safeties the Steelers did yesterday isn't even on the same continent as the Pats' offensive personnel. Tyrone Carter wasn't good enough in pass defense to stick with the Vikings in 2004, fer' cryin' out loud.

220
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:03am

It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

Of 16 "experts" on ESPN.com, 9 picked Philadelphia to win the NFC East and 7 picked Dallas. None picked the Giants. Of the 9 who picked Philadelphia to win the East, 8 picked Dallas to take a Wild Card, and one picked Washington. The 7 who picked Dallas to win the NFC East all picked Philadelphia to win a Wild Card. So basically none of these Experts picked the Giants to go better than 8-8 or maybe 7-9.

SI predicted the Giants to go 6-10.

So Aaron was hardly alone in predicting the Giants to not do well.

Michael Smith, Joe Theismann, and Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN picked Baltimore to win the Super Bowl. John Clayton and Scouts, Inc. picked Chicago to win the NFC. SI picked the Jets to go 9-7, the Packers to go 6-10, and the Saints to go 12-4 and win the Super Bowl. This is why TMQ does a "worst predictions" column every year.

221
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:08am

I believe it was either Scouts INc. or the Sporting News picked Dallas at 13-3 and people were laughing at them.

222
by azibuck (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:17am

Hey Will, they posted predictions here too, and since not all of us worshi... bought the book, what we read here is what we remember. I remember this too:

Team Most Likely To Fall Short Of Its PFP Projection (besides Tampa Bay)

Aaron Schatz: New York Giants. ... There’s a pretty good chance they come out of that 0-5 or 1-4, and if this team starts slow, they’re going full Kotite.

Bill Barnwell: ... It astounds me that some people still think this team has a chance of being competitive in 2007.

And Schatz, Barnwell, and Benjy Rose did think nyG would be picking first next year.

I don't care to argue it, and the guys you were answering before may be idiots, but this happens when you make predictions. It's really not a big deal.

223
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:17am

219. I was going by the incredible DPAR adjustment Brady got for playing the steelers. I hadn't factored in injuries, I guess.

224
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:23am

RE: 215

I'm glad somebody noticed my wry humor.

225
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:24am

I really don't care that the FO guys were wrong, because nobody is always right. The fact that the majority of them took shot after shot on the Giants and many of their posters told them that they were way off. Stats don't tell the whole story and NO the Giants weren't screwed they lost Tiki, offsides Luke, or that they all hate their coach.

226
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:29am

Chris you're acting like the Giants have been world beaters or something. They've lost to the two elite teams they've played, got blown out by the Vikings, and squeaked by two teams with losing records (Bears and Eagles). They are exactly what DVOA says they are: a very average team with a below-average strength of schedule faced to date.

227
by Rhys (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:36am

Let's look at the question this way:
If Wes Welker was a running back, all his incomplete passes were seen to be runs of zero yards, and all his complete passes were runs of equal yardage, what would his running back success rate be? If it's better than most of the running backs in the league, which I suspect it might be even with the inherent boom/bust nature of passing, Wes Welker is probably pretty good. You could do this for some other Wideouts too to get an idea for what the number should look like (WRSR?)

228
by Thinker (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:37am

Aaron,

This thread contains two notable useability items:
First is the scrolling issue caused by the advertizements. It also happens when highlighting text. This seems to be a matter of the "control focus" being shifted away from the scrollbar control. This does not happen with most other sites. A simple click on the scrollbar will re-enable the scrolling keys. It would be nice to eliminate this "feature".

Second, the numbers on the posts change. It is most common on very active or long threads. I suspect that the internal sort is using the post creation timestamp rather than the timestamp at inclusion to the thread. Whatever causes it, it can be observed by printing the last few posts to any long thread that is still receiving new entries. Wait a couple of minutes and hit refresh, and you will see that the numbers have been bumped (further down, I believe) a bit. This causes some confusion when people respond to posts by number.

229
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:53am

The Eagles drafts have been mediocre of late, but it’s too soon to declare Hunt and Celek to be busts.

Running backs don't get much slack from me. They need to perform right away, and they should, given that their skill set translates most directly to the NFL. If Hunt's not playing now, he's not going to play period. And the few plays he has played this year, he just hasn't looked like anything impressive.

Celek did well in preseason. Not since then. He's struggled a lot in blitz pickup and hasn't really been able to get open on routes.

Bradley and Abiamiri don't impress me at all, and clearly they don't impress the coaches much, either, otherwise they'd be pushing others for playing time.

150- Of Course the Eagles game was officiated like crap… Just like the other 7 games the Eagles lost, right?:)

Oh, of course! And if the biggest screwed up call in that game - namely, the fumble-that-wasn't-a-fumble that the Eagles recovered - had been called correctly, the Eagles surely would've won! Er...

Where did I say the Eagles lost because of the officiating? Oh right! I didn't. I mentioned the officiating because I said I was getting to hate those games. Not because the Eagles lost (the Eagles did win two games against the Giants last year, mind you) but because they're unwatchable.

You've got two teams who hate each other, constantly trying to do half-illegal things to each other, punching at each other, yelling at each other, and officials who do nothing to stop it. Eventually stupid calls are going to be made, and they are.

The bad officiating had nothing to do with who won the game. It did, however, have everything to do with whether or not I enjoyed it. Watching Osi Umenyiora rush offside, unblocked, and whack McNabb. Utterly stupid. Watching Dawkins flying-clothesline someone, unflagged, just after Sheppard gets flagged for a similar excessively rough tackle. Stupid.

So do me a favor and read what I write first.

230
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:58am

Re: poison pill

Does the "poison pill" really make reference to the number of games played in a state? If so, how can that be a legitimate perk that can withstand scrutiny by the NFL and NFLPA? I mean, why would the owners stand for such a preposterous measure?

231
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:09am

Purds:

Yes. Such poison pills can, and have, been used. However, the consensus among the NFL owners is that these kinds of deals aren't really positive for the league as a whole. That's why the Pats threw in the 30th pick in the seventh round (basically an undrafted free agent of Miami's choice) as a "sweetener" so that both teams could call it a "trade". In effect, the threat of the poison pill made the outcome inevitable; doing the deal as a trade was a better approach politically.

The real issue in the Welker deal was Miami trying to save $500,000 by slappng the restricted free agent tender on Welker that only required 2nd round compensation instead of ponying up for a tender that would have required a first rounder as compensation.

232
by Athelas (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:12am

#217- Thanks for the response anyway, Will. My parents are both from MN, so the Vikings have always been one of my favorite teams. --at least when they had an outdoor stadium & Bud Grant ;-)

233
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:21am

230: I looked it up, and it turns out the poison pill actually was triggered after 5 games, not 4. But, same structure.

And the Vikings decided not to challenge the contract, IIRC, because Burleson wanted to be in Seattle (and they probably thought it was too high anyway). And, Hutchinson's contract, which had a provision that it would be guaranteed if he weren't the highest paid OL-er on the team, was upheld in arbitration. (It was designed, of course, to be unmatchable for the Hawks because of Walter Jones.)

Click on my name for the ESPN story. I don't know if the poison pills are still commonly used; Kraft obviously thought it was risky enough not to risk losing Welker by trying to push a poison pill, and to do a sign-and-trade instead.

234
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:29am

192,

Please put down the pipe before you post. Romo could throw 40 TD's this year which will make him what, the 4th or 5th QB to do that? (And I don't think a single OL missed a game last year) I think he's pretty good. And saying that people who watch American Idol are the ones who will like him is equally supoid. And I find it hard to believe you would think he was annoying if he played for your team. Its the same for all good QB's, I don't like Brady because I think he whines like a baby all tha time and plays for the Pats. BUt if he played for the Boys, obviously I would love him. And just so you know, there are tons of people who don't like Farve.

And I do think the Cowboy bias is very noticable. Look at how many comments there have been this season discrediting Romo, what other player has had anything like that. Every game we here how the Cowboys get all the calls. We hear someone say Hanson missed the kick (seriously, that wasn't even close). 36 and 38 talk about the luck the Cowboys had. Then we have 77 with the ridiculous notion (sory but this is just nuts) that no one is close to the Colts/Pats. Just another Colt fan desperately trying to stay on the pedastal I guess. I admit they're great but to say it would be a monumental upset if the Cowboys in the SB??? Seriously? Why? The Boys have lost one game and that was to the "Greatest Team in History" yet it would be a gigantic upset to beat the Colts? As far as you talking about the Colts winning the divison without playing 2 division games the Cowboys already did the same thing but a week earlier. And they would get a bye with just a win next week. So that did the opposite of prove your point. And the Pats go through the same hate but at least they get respect too (plus like 20 people jumping to defend them at every turn). ALl Cowboy fans hear is things to discredit the team. Its just damn frustrating, thats all. Especially as someone who didn't watch football in the SB years (for the Boys) so I have no experience in this kind of success or rational for why we're hated this way. I mean, I get the hate but its just weird to have people hate your team for something you weren't even a part of. The 90's doesn't matter to me, all that matters is this team now. Just give them credit, the Cowboys have a great team this year.

235
by david (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:38am

42- The Chargers do not (mathmatically) clinch the division with a win vs. Detroit. Assuming they win that game and then lose to Denver and Oakland, coupled with Denver winning out, Denver and San Diego will finish the year at 9-7, split the head to head, and Denver will win the division on the basis of their 4-2 Divisional record, with the Chargers at 3-3. But if the Chargers lose to Detroit and Denver, but beat Oakland with Denver winning out, SD wins the division. The tiebreaker that does it the Strength of Victory, as they would have the same record, split head to head, tie divisionally, common games and Conference. Then comes the SoV and that win over IND clinches it for them (If my math is correct, there's no way the Broncos can catch SD in SoV)
169- the ball has to go within the imaginary 'extension' of the uprights. See Janikowski's monster kick in week 3 against the Broncos that bounced off the top of the upright for evidence.

236
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:46am

Azibuck, if you like this site enough to revist, I can only suggest that you buy the book, because that is where the heart of the work can be examined. If that strikes you as a form of worship, so be it. If Schatz later said the analysis he published in the book regarding the Giants was most likely to be in error, that hardly is a damning comment on the techniques which produced the book.

I think it is interesting that so many forget that the projections in the book are put forth as probabilities. Chance and unknowables play too large a role is the outcome of football games to make certain predictions of x number of wins anything other than very silly. How good are the FO methods? The outcomes to date suggest it is fairly promising, compared to what "experts" usually produce. What I like about FO is the attempt to strip emotion out of the analysis, because the only people silly enough to play close attention to football tend to be far too emotional about the subject to be consistently clear-minded

237
by david (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:50am

One quick addendum to my previous post: The Broncos most likely road to winning the division is if the entire Chargers team is eaten by wolves. I think that there's a better statistical chance of that happening than us going into San Diego and winning or San Diego going up against Oakland's rush defense and losing. Hopefully I'm wrong. Or failing that, hopefully the Chargers wind up getting lost in wolf country.

238
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:54am

"because the only people silly enough to play close attention to football tend to be far too emotional about the subject to be consistently clear-minded."

And every audibles thread, this one included is a clear example of that.

239
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:04am

237. There is no recorded instance of a predatory wolf-related death in all of North America (excepting attacks by rabid wolves, of which there are a few).

You are better off hoping for them to spontaneously combust.

240
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:08am

238,

Yep, including me, as I can see by rereading my previous post. But is it not frustrating? ;)

241
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:20am

240. It's inevitable, if you ask me. Football is an emotional sport, for spectators as well as players :)

242
by david (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:24am

239- Well, dammit. Stupid wolves, always letting me down in the clutch. Go spontaneous combustion!

243
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 4:08am

147: No, it didn't happen during that play. He was hit in the leg after a play was over later in the game. Supposedly it was in retribution for Vince Young not looking where he was going and running into a practically stationary Merriman earlier in the contest.

244
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 5:00am

237/239/242 If Denver scientists have managed to perfect their super-flammable venison aftershave and get it to LT and Merriman in time..... there's a chance.

Let's see if Vegas has a betting line on wolves consuming a team vs spontaneous combustion. Some peope bet on anything and they might as well make a buck on this. Though I am guessing that Seattle, Denver, and Minn are the closest geographically to wild wolf populations. Hey, with the fires in SD a couple months back, maybe combustion IS more likely.

245
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 5:44am

244: The fires did come relatively close to some of the players' houses. That's probably Denver's best bet: fiery death.

246
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:38am

#239: Until about three weeks ago, that is (though it occurred in 2005). There are probably a few sporadic reports from earlier days, too (~1900s and earlier).

So there's still hope for the Broncos!

247
by Chad Gerson (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 8:10am

As we seem to have settled the safety/kick issue, I have a couple of other rules questions. I don't have my rulebook with me so I can't look right now.

(1) Has anyone noticed that the Patriots' QB and one of their TEs have the same name on their backs? Isn't this an equipment violation? Shouldn't they be required to read "T. Brady" and "K. Brady"?

(2) The Rules Digest states that a successful try counts "one point by kick; two points for a successful conversion by touchdown; or one point for a safety." How in the hell can a safety be scored in the offense's favor on a try?

(3) I saw a play this weekend where a player's helmet came off and rolled away, and was picked up by an opposing player while the play was live. Is this legal? What if the ball were fumbled and bounced into the helmet--could a player pick up the helmet with ball inside and run with it?

(4) Why isn't "aiding the runner" ever called anymore?

248
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 10:08am

Re: #247

1) The rule changed either this year or last. First initial isn't required anymore.

2) The only thing I can think of is offense attempts two point conversion, fumbles, defense recovers in the field of play, steps into/is driven into the endzone and tackled there for a safety.

4) For the same reason "uncatchable ball" isn't called anymore?

249
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 11:16am

Another catch-all....

Terry Glenn had the rookie WR record for a decade or so 90 receptions. I believe Anquan Boldin bested that a few years back. To think Ted Ginn would have 93 in 13 games for the Pats is silly, even from a hyperbolic standpoint. If Ginn were drafted by the Patriots, his catches would likely be in the single digits. I think Chad Jackson caught less than 20 last year. Ginn may prove to be a great kick returner and reliable offensive weapon some day, but he's not the calibre of Glenn or Boldin.

The first poison pill contract was the one Parcells signed Curtis Martin to. The numbers here are probably wrong, but the gist of the contract was a fully guaranteed six year deal with all the money allowable under league finance rules coming in the form of signing bonus. Martin had the right to opt out of the contract after the first year, and the contract contained provisions that he couldn't be tagged. This contract was made illegal shortly afterwards. Basically, Parcells and Martin had a deal in place where if the Patriots matched the contract, Martin would opt out after the first year and become a free agent, leaving New England with the cap ramifications. Parcells used an implicit threat of a league-wide blackballing if Martin double-crossed him and opted out of the contract. The next poison pill was the Hutchinson one, based on being the highest paid lineman, followed by the Burleson one, which was based on geography (which Florio has advocated ever since for RFAs). Arbitrators have consistently upheld the validity of these clauses. The primary reason to trade for Welker instead of inserting a poison pill was the ability to sign him to a longer-term and team-friendly contract.

Love all the wolves talk....good change-of-direction. I'm also getting hungry.

250
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 11:39am

246. Dang. Well the report I read was from 2002... plus we don't know if we can attribute this attack as well to rabies.

Also note that while wolf attacks resulting in death are exceedingly rare in north america, wolves eating babies is somewhat common in parts of Asia, presumably because of human encroachment onto wolf territory (and because farmers in India don't have electric fences and rifles like our ranchers do).

251
by Duran Duran (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 11:45am

Hungry Like a Wolf??

252
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 11:52am

I howl and I whine I'm after you.

253
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:00pm

101 - Even as a Packers fan, I can see Romo is pretty good. He's not in Brady or P Manning's class, but he's in that next tier. I imagine you, like many Pack fans, had the same irrational bias against Aikman. Many Packers haters still have the same irrational bias about Starr. But they're all in that 90%+ percentile of elite QBs. That's not bad company. All QBs have good and bad bounces. So what.

254
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:19pm

Have we all forgoten about the Kurt Warner craze of years past? Or was it Kurt’s good looks that made him a star as well, even if it was ever so brief?

No, it was the space aliens.

255
by Bruce Campbell (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:26pm

Ahoy!

256
by Zevon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:49pm

Was there or was there not a little old lady who got mutilated late last night?

257
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:56pm

"Welker doesn’t have production like that if he stays in Miami. And Ginn would probably have production like that if he was healthy from day 1 and in NE."

no, but he continues to do what he did last year: Be their best receiver.

258
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:03pm

My biology training is finally coming in handy:

Typical prey items for wolves: little red riding hood, three little pigs, sheep, moose, deer

Typical prey items for werewolves: pina coladas at Trader Vic's, little old ladies

As we can see, the two are distinct species and neither typically preys on chargers. I think you'll want to go with spontaneous combustion here.

259
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:12pm

Lawyers, guns, and money are the recommended defense for werewolves, or at least that is what I've been told. Or, counter-intuitively, rubbing roast beef all over your chest. Or something.

260
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:27pm

That actually sounds like a good post-game excuse:
"Maybe a dingo ate my team."
(To be spoken in heavy Australian accent.)

261
by JG (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:46pm

Isn't the basis for the delay of game penalty if the refs have to chase down the ball instead of the action? I mean, generally when you spike it, it goes flying away, and that's why the rule is referred to as the spike rule. If the ref doesn't have to go chasing after the ball, they shouldn't throw a flag.

262
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 1:49pm

Re Receptions and value:
Shaun McDonald has 67 receptions this year.
Mike Furrey had 98 and Mark Clayton had 67 last year.
Antonio Bryant had 69 the year before.
Nate Burleson had 68, Drew Bennett had 80, and Michael Clayton had 80 the year before that.

Apparently they were all worth second round picks, no brainers even. Heck, 80+ catches might be worth a first.

263
by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:57pm

#247
(2) The Rules Digest states that a successful try counts “one point by kick; two points for a successful conversion by touchdown; or one point for a safety.� How in the hell can a safety be scored in the offense’s favor on a try?

Oddly enough in Diane's link to the chicagosports article with Jerry Markbreit answering questions he handles both the kick and the safety try question.

In the Texas-Texas A&M football game, a one-point safety was awarded to Texas on a botched extra point attempt that resulted in a safety after a change of possession and a fumble in the end zone. Is this a new rule? Also, does the NFL have a one-point safety rule or is a safety on an extra point conversion worth two points? --Adam King, Chicago

Under NCAA rules, the ball is not dead when a try-for-point is unsuccessful if the defensive team attempts to score. However, if the defense does something that causes the ball to be dead in their own end zone, such as the play that you describe, then a one-point safety will be awarded to the original offensive team. Under NFL rules, an unsuccessful try-for-point is dead if kicked, but while attempting a two-point try, it is possible for a safety to be ruled if the defensive team forces the ball back into their own end zone and they recover. One point would be awarded, instead of the two points that are normally awarded for safeties.

264
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:02pm

Just to elaborate on hwc's posts about Welker:

You guys are using your preconceived notions about what a "slot receiver" is on most offenses. On most teams, the slot guy is clearly the a worse receiver than the top 2 guys and only sees the field when teams want several pass catchers on the field, typically on 2nd/3rd and long.

This is not how NE views the slot position. Because they run an offense that uses 3+ receivers on at least 75% of their snaps, they look for specific attributes for a guy out of that position: immediate burst, excellent quickness, precise route running, reading defenses, good hands. The two things that Welker doesn't have, blazing speed and size, aren't that important to that spot. Obviously it would be better to have than not, but guys who have the first set of characteristics that also have one of the others typically are top flight guys who demand big bucks.

Once you realize what NE is looking for and you compare Welker *based on that criteria* you realize that he is amongst the top 10-15 best fitting receivers in the game - and I am being overly conservative with that figure. Moss himself doesn't fit what NE is looking for from that position, although they would obviously run it differently if they had to.

Wes Welker is an exceptional receiver for NE's slot position. I don't care if he wouldn't be all that good in Cincy's offense or Jacksonville's. Do Indy fan's lament the fact that several of their defensive players wouldn't be all that good in NE's system?

As for the argument that Welker just eats Moss and Stallworth's table scraps, well that is pure fallacy. Welker is absolutely considered by every defense that NE sees the #2 passing threat. Several teams this year have chosen to double him or put their #2 CB on him. The only reason Baltimore had success is that they literally held his jersey every single time he was about to break open. And if being a slot receiver is that easy, why couldn't Indy find anyone last year in Stokely absence? Why they finally just give up and move Clark in there? Are you saying that Harrison/Wayne don't command the attention that Moss/Stallworth do?

The real irony in all of this is that Welker's DVOA is dragged down largely because of his ypc, but DVOA loves offenses that can have long, sustained drives that comprise of many short plays. Welker is the key to such drives with NE.

BTW, I can see the ypc issue and I understand it and I ever agree with it. To be a great receiver you have to stretch the defenses somewhat. That isn't Welker's game. I can completely see why someone would pick any number of receivers first if the entire league was drafted again. But I know damn well who NE would take second at the latest (if he was still available, of course); Wes Welker.

265
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:10pm

Forty touchdown passes? Big deal. Favre never needed to do that.

266
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:22pm

Yeah, Bob, forty touchdown passes is no big deal. On the other hand, how someone wears a hat is a really big deal. Really.

267
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:49pm

266.

While I agree Will, I just find it amusing that with all the shit we heard about Brady Quinn being unprofessional for chewing gum(in the media), the media hasn't made a chirp about Romo.

268
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:49pm

On the other hand, stop taking yourself so seriously. The backwards hat is an affectation. "Hey everybody, look at me!"

269
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:55pm

267 (Bob) -
You're coming off as an old curmudgeon. People having been wearing their hats backwards for at least 10 years (it was Ken Griffey, Jr., who made it mainstream). Why are you picking on Tony Romo for this?

270
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:56pm

Bob. So what? Are you his father? Look, this really isn't all that important, but when it gets to the point that what happens on the field is ignored or discounted, and chapeau-wearing habits are focused on, well, Bob, that's just plain crazy, pure and simple.

271
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 4:18pm

268. I suspect for the same reason that I used to hate Derek Jeter for continually going out with whatever woman happened to be Ms. Universe at the time. Because he played for the Yankees, damn it.

272
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 5:56pm

Mmm... odd DVOA numbers coming up.

273
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:05pm

Bob, honestly does it really matter how he wears his hat??? You act like there aren't tons of other people in the NFL who wear their hat backwards.

274
by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:11pm

I wonder is Bob serious or pulling our leg w/the Romo stuff?

Also, I never knew about the 1 point safety rule...Cool!

275
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:18pm

Apparently they were all worth second round picks, no brainers even. Heck, 80+ catches might be worth a first.

Heck, Seattle gave up a first for Deon Branch.

BTW, I can see the ypc issue and I understand it and I ever agree with it. To be a great receiver you have to stretch the defenses somewhat. That isn’t Welker’s game.

In an twist of irony, Welker's role on the Pats is to "stretch" the field. With Moss, opponents absolutely, positively must defend deep. Yet, with Welker on the field, they absolutely, positively can't neglect the short zones to do so.

Welker inherently creates mismatches for defenses, which is what Belichick realized from his frustration of trying to cover Welker in Miami. The mismatch is that a linebacker cannot cover the guy. Thus, a base defense is vulnerable anytime he's on the field. That's what happened to Pittsburgh on the final clock-killing drive in the fourth quarter. The Pats caught the Steelers in their base defense, went no-huddle so they couldn't get out of it, and threw six consecutive completions to Wes Welker. A good linebacker, James Farrior, was a sitting duck in that situation.

BTW, your larger point is one I agree with. Fans tend to think too rigidly of traditional roles on football teams and, if we could only get [a textbook combine guy] to fill each role, we'd win it all. The really good GMs and coaches understand that it takes 45 players producing in probably 100 roles to consistently win games. One of Welker's roles is to allow Brady to get rid of the ball for positive yardage against a blitz. Without that role, the Pats can't go empty backfield all day against the league's #1 defense blitzing on 90% of the plays.

276
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:20pm

274: I thought he was kidding.

On an unrelated note, why do people keep talking about the crack back block on Merriman when discussing whether there was a "hit" put out on him by Fisher? That block isn't what they sent video of into the League. It was after a play where he was jumped on by two Titans linemen in an attempt to injure him (successfully, I might add).

277
by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:31pm

Re #247:

Has anyone noticed that the Patriots’ QB and one of their TEs have the same name on their backs? Isn’t this an equipment violation? Shouldn’t they be required to read “T. Brady� and “K. Brady�?

It's never been a rule. Since the Steelers put names on their backs in 1970, they've never used initials, from several players named Davis in the early '70s through Aaron, Anthony, and Marvel Smith today.

278
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 6:44pm

RE: hwc 231, et al,
Miami trying to save $500,000 by slappng the restricted free agent tender on Welker that only required 2nd round compensation instead of ponying up for a tender that would have required a first rounder as compensation.
You're obviously right, in retrospect, that Welker was worth the extra $500k for a first-round tender. Add that to Culpepper, Green, Beck, Ginn, passing on Brees, and failing to build the lines, as the primary culprits of the Dolphin's sorry state.
In effect, the threat of the poison pill made the outcome inevitable; doing the deal as a trade was a better approach politically.
I would say that this demonstrates that the poison pill *IS* a real issue. It's clearly subversion the intended nature of the restricted free agents market.
the consensus among the NFL owners is that these kinds of deals aren’t really positive for the league as a whole.
The owners and the player's association should get together on this for the next contract and ensure that these sorts of provisions can be struck down.

279
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 7:05pm

RE:278

As it turns out, the threat of a poison pill in the Welker deal probably had no impact. I mean, if the Dolphins weren't willing to go $1.8 million instead of $1.3 million on a one year deal, they obviously didn't value Welker enough to match any offer the Pats were prepared to make.

There are lots of issues the NFL Agents Association could have addressed in the last CBA, if they hadn't been so focused on squeezing every last tenth of a point out of the owners. Poison pills. The franchise tag. Heck, I think it could be argued that the ridiculous money being paid to untested top first round draft picks is undermining the competitive balance of the NFL. A crappy franchise, picking at the top of the draft, is often digging a deeper hole for themselves by paying superstar guaranteed money to a 22 year old kid who often turns out to be a bust.

280
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 7:38pm

if the Dolphins weren’t willing to go $1.8 million instead of $1.3 million on a one year deal, they obviously didn’t value Welker enough to match any offer the Pats were prepared to make.
That depends entirely on how much the Pats valued him. We know they value him greatly right now, but did they expect this level of production? If not, it's hard to say what they would have offered. What is his current deal structured like?
There are lots of issues the NFL Agents Association could have addressed in the last CBA, if they hadn’t been so focused on squeezing every last tenth of a point out of the owners. Poison pills. The franchise tag. Heck, I think it could be argued that the ridiculous money being paid to untested top first round draft picks is undermining the competitive balance of the NFL. A crappy franchise, picking at the top of the draft, is often digging a deeper hole for themselves by paying superstar guaranteed money to a 22 year old kid who often turns out to be a bust.
I agree that a more rigid, NBA-style rookie payscale for first round picks would probably help the NFL.

Personally, I don't have a problem with the franchise tag - it's a reasonable tool for teams to have at their disposal. The players who get franchised seem to hate it, but overall I think it is good for the league because it keeps the top salaries under control, without changing the overall division of the pie between players and owners.

281
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 7:41pm

But why would the players want to eliminate poison pills? They actually HELP the players. After all, nobody is forcing them to sign an offer sheet with another team.

Normally, a poison pill would either guarantee the player a ton of money, like the Hutchinson deal did. Or it will allow the player to go where they want - like the Burleson deal. And look at the deal Welker ended up getting for himself with NE.

On the other hand, the NFLPA is not a very solid union. The owners could probably convince them that getting rid of poison pills are great for the players. This wouldn't surprise me at all.

The MLB union is where it's at. They have had undefeated seasons since their Union began.

282
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 8:13pm

doktarr:

The Pats deal with Welker is five years, $18.1 million with $9 million guaranteed ($5.5 million signing bonus in 2007 plus $3.5 million option bonus in 2008). His base salaries in the final four years range from $3.7 million to $4.5 million.

That's not #1 WR money, but it's clear that the Patriots valued him very highly. Why not? He has significant proven NFL production.

Now, did they figure him to be in the running to lead the league in receptions this year with over 100 catches? Who knows. I think they would have felt like they got their money's worth with 60 to 80 catches.

The key to the Pats offense right now (besides Brady) is that Welker and Moss are such perfectly complementary receivers with polar opposite skill sets. One defender can't handle either of them, but they pressure the defense is such different ways that it is really tough to handle both of them. Baltimore came the closest, but Rolle, McAlister, and Reed is certainly a better than average secondary.

It's been interesting to see how many combo routes the Pats have run using Welker and Moss to attack the same defender or the same zone. If the DBs bite on Moss (you almost have to) Welker is open underneath (often for TDs in the red zone). If they bite on Welker's route, Moss is gone.

283
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 8:14pm

typo:

Sorry, the $3.7 million to $4.5 million for the final three years of Welker's deal are his CAP NUMBERS, not his BASE SALARIES!

284
by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 11:08pm

#249: Jackson had so few catches last year because 1. He was hurt and 2. He wasn't catching on. It wasn't simply because he was a rookie. Deion Branch had 43 catches his rookie year. I understand the argument is about Ted Ginn but just wanted to point that out.

285
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2007 - 12:16am

Call me crazy but I still think Chad Jackson can be a player. Last year at the combine he was head and shoulders better than any other WR in the NFL combine kind of world.

NO, that doesn't mean he will be any better than any of the previous combine wonders, but he physically reminded me of a big,fast, talented WR. Maybe like a Javon Walker. If you have this young CJ around the talented veteran wideouts on the depth chart in front of him, with that QB, that coaching staff, and that offense. I still think Chad Jackson has a chance to be somebody. He has all the tools to succeed.

286
by hwc (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2007 - 4:47am

Combine workouts don't mean jack squat.

Look at Welker. Too short. Too slow, can't run a 4.5 forty. He didn't even get invited to the combine.

But he's sitting at 93 catches and 975 yards receiving after the first 13 games.

We know that Chad Jackson is fast. We know he can ace the combine workout. What we don't know is whether he can read a defense, run a route, get open, and catch the ball in the NFL.

287
by Chad Gerson (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2007 - 6:11am

#263: I have a hard time envisioning this. I was always under the impression that, in the NFL, a change of possession on a try ended the try. But this rule seems to say that, if the offense attempts a 2-point conversion and the defense intercepts or recovers a fumble, it is still a live ball, such that they could run back into their own end zone and be tackled for a safety?

288
by Zevon (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2007 - 10:58am

Nick @ 264

Well, expanding my point: Deion Branch had those 43 catches alongside guys named Brown and Givens. Terry Glenn had 90 Catches alongside guys named Brown (still very green at the time) and Shawn Jefferson. Chad Jackson had 20 or whatever alongside guys named Caldwell, Gabriel, and Brown. Tell me a way in which Ted Ginn catches 40, much less 93, alongside guys named Moss, Stallworth, and Gaffney.

289
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 12/12/2007 - 9:41pm

Still this game reveals how large the gap is between the elite teams in the NFC (Dallas, Green Bay) and a half-decent club like Tampa that has benefited greatly from a soft schedule.

Not sure if I agree with that. Tampa Bay is a good team. You're going to say they're not much because they happened to lose in Houston with Luke McCown at QB?

290
by BDC (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:02pm

"#

Still this game reveals how large the gap is between the elite teams in the NFC (Dallas, Green Bay) and a half-decent club like Tampa that has benefited greatly from a soft schedule.

Not sure if I agree with that. Tampa Bay is a good team. You’re going to say they’re not much because they happened to lose in Houston with Luke McCown at QB?"

Well, I am not sure what he was going to say, but what I was going to say was, TB has lost every game they have played against good (top third of the league) teams,and won most but not all of their games against average-to-bad teams. While that doesn't make them a bad team by any stretch, that isn't exactly the resume of an elite team, which I think was the point he was trying to make.

291
by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 8:39pm

RE: 290

But to call them half-decent is unfair. They're a pretty good team. Not on the level of Dallas or Green Bay, but good nonetheless.

They beat the Saints twice, beat Tennessee, lost narrowly to Jacksonville, beat Arizona, and beat Washington.
I think they're a top 10 team in the 7-9 range, and the 3rd or 4th best team in the NFC.

292
by BDC (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 9:47am

Re 291: I agree with you that they are better then slightly decent; I do think they are a good team, or at the very least, are a good team when they aren't missing their starting QB. My only point was that I do not consider them an elite team in any sense of the word. They have lost to every elite team they have played, and 2 out 3 of those losses weren't particularly close. Of the teams you mentioned that they beat, TN is ranked 18 (and it was a close win), AZ is ranked 22 (and it was a somewhat close win), WAS is ranked 15 (and again, it was a somewhat close win), and NO is ranked 19 (and one of those wins was a very close call).

I would rank them slightly lower then you, maybe in the 10-12 range, or 4-5 in the NFC, but all in all, nothing to quibble about. I am just saying I don't think their resume shouts "elite team" to me.

293
by BDC (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 9:56am

Let me just add, as I hit the say it button to soon, what I was getting at was that no, "You’re going to say they’re not much because they happened to lose in Houston...", that in itself does not mean they are a bad team. We all know that most years, even the very good football teams lose a game to a bad football team once in a while, and it isn't all that uncommon to see a good football team lose rather badly to a bad football team once in a year. But rather, that the entire resume that TB presents over their entire season doesn't, to me, imply an elite football team.

294
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